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FAQs on Establishing Cycling in Freshwater Systems 3

Related Articles: Establishing Cycling, Freshwater Filtration, Know Your Filter Media, A Concise Guide to Your Options by Neale Monks, Setting up a Freshwater Aquarium, Tips for BeginnersWater Quality and Freshwater Aquariums

Related FAQs:  Establishing Cycling 1, Establishing Cycling 2, Establishing Cycling 4, Cycling Products, Biological Filtration, Cycling Trouble-Fixing, & Freshwater Filtration, Freshwater Environmental DiseaseNitrates in Freshwater Aquariums, Ammonia, FW Nitrites, FW Nitrates, Chemical Filtrants,

I don't like ammonia.... or nitrites! No no!

0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, 160 ppm nitrates during fishless cycle      5/5/16
I am trying to cycle my 10 gallon tank (for a Betta) using the fishless ammonia method. It's been 6 weeks and ammonia and nitrites spiked and the fell to zero.
<Ahh; done>
My questions are: why are the nitrates so high,
do I continue to dose with ammonia (I have stopped)

will the nitrates drop eventually like the ammonia and No3 ?
<Mmm; slowly; yes; but better to either add some live plants... or do a significant water change... half the water, halve the NO3>
I have just done a 90% water change and nitrates are at 40 to 80 ppm. The tank has a HOB filter, a sponge filter with airstone, a heater and a UV sterilizer. The pH is 7.4, the tap water is hard (and 10-20 ppm nitrates).
There are some (3) plants and the roots of a philodendron in the tank. I plan on adding more plants. What do I need to do?
<Really; just be patient; time going by... Monitor/test every few days... NO3 will "go down".>
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>
Re: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, 160 ppm nitrates during fishless cycle      5/6/16

Thank you Bob Fenner!, should I be feeding the bacteria with fish food until the nitrates come down (just bought 4 more plants)?
<Yes; but really... "just a pinch" or a single flake or two per day. Takes very little to sustain a nitrifying population>
Thanks again,
<Again welcome. BobF>
Re: 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, 160 ppm nitrates during fishless cycle      5/6/16

Great, thanks again for the info.
<Cheers Eve. B>

New filter-will tank cycle again? Hello, <<Hi, Tamera. Tom here.>> Six weeks ago I set up a 20 gallon freshwater aquarium. I had a Whisper Filter and added Bio-Spira to the aquarium. <<Excellent.>> I did what the employees at the pet shop told me to do-including adding 7 fish after the 3rd day of setup. <<This, I'm not so crazy about even with the addition of the Bio-Spira.>> I added 4 more 2 weeks later. I had: 2 Serpae Tetras 2 Rosy Barbs 1 Clown Loach 1 Pictus Catfish 1 Betta and finally 4 Neon Tetras. <<For future reference, Tamera, don't include a Betta in this particular scheme. Not only do these fish require very different conditions, particularly as regards temperature, but the Tetras and Barbs will have a "field day" with the Bettas fins. In my opinion, I would also eliminate the Clown Loach. These tend to grow too large for a 20-gallon tank and are not the cute, little darlings in adulthood that they seem to be as juveniles, behaviorally speaking.>> Unfortunately, due to my ignorance I overfed and my Whisper Filter was only turned up at 50% capacity. <<I'm going to give the folks at the fish shop some of the "credit" here, too, Tamera. The stocking issues I just referred to should have sent up a flag to someone there.>> So, at 4 weeks all my fish died except 1 Rosy Barb. I had my water tested and my Nitrites were 10 ppm and Nitrates were 40 ppm. This is all the Pet Shop employee told me. <<Yep, that would have done it, though I'm sorry nevertheless about your fish.>> I was told to do 20% water changes and add Prime. I bought a kit and started testing the water myself. (An employee told me previously I didn't need to do this.) <<It occurs to me that there's something of an unfortunate pattern developing with the kind of advice, and lack thereof, that you seem to be getting from these folks. I hope, for your sake and for the sakes of your future pets, that this shop isn't the "only game in town.">> Of course, none of this was effective. Finally, in desperation I typed in (How many water changes must I do to get Nitrites down?) on the Google site. Thank God your site came up. After following all the advise on FAQ on Marine/Freshwater Quality involving Nitrites something happened. Today after H20 changes of 25%, 50%, and 75%-10 days in a row, a new Penguin BioWheel 150, Bio-Spira, Prime and aquarium salt my readings are: Nitrate: 0 ppm Nitrite: .5 ppm Total Hardness: 150 Alkalinity: 120-180 P.H. 7.8 Things are much better (many, many thanks to you), but I didn't have room to keep my Whisper Filter. I am afraid that with it gone my tank will cycle again in 4 weeks. Should I add more Bio-Spira to my BioWheel just in case? <<Your tank is already "cycling", Tamera, as evidenced by the detection of the nitrites. How far along it is would be easier to tell if you had included ammonia readings. If these are zero, you're in pretty decent shape, though the nitrites need to come down to zero, as well, as you now understand. As for the BIO-Spira, absolutely add it. Not only is it an excellent product but, frankly, it's too expensive not to utilize it.>> I'll still keep doing water changes until I can get readings to appropriate levels and won't add fish until I am sure it's ok. <<At this point, I would recommend holding off on more water changes, Tamera. Let the BIO-Spira do its work. Continue testing your water regularly. You're in a good position to witness, first-hand, how the cycling process progresses. There's nothing wrong with getting some good, sound advice but it's not a substitute for personal knowledge when dealing with unknowledgeable people.>> I am afraid to trust the employee's at the pet stores- I went to two. <<At this stage, I'd be more than a little reluctant to "trust" what I was being told by these folks, too. Make sure that you research any fish you have your eye on before making a purchase. Behavioral compatibility is, obviously, important but environmental compatibility is just as important. Do yourself another favor, if you haven't already done so, and test your water straight out of the tap. This can give you a big advantage when choosing new fish particularly where pH levels are concerned. Until you've got some experience under your belt, you don't want to play around with altering your pH levels in the aquarium. For instance, Neon Tetras thrive in soft, acidic water. Yours is fairly hard and definitely alkaline (basic). They just won't do well in this. It'll pay, in more ways than one, to keep fish that prefer conditions as close as possible to what you have available at the tap.>> Any help would be appreciated. <<Hopefully, that's what we've done for you, Tamera.>> This web site is so helpful. It's a great source of knowledge-thank you so much! <<And, thank you for being so kind. Best regards and good luck as you continue in the hobby! Tom>>

Weird Cycling Goo   9/4/06 Hi there, <Hello> I've been having some issues with my tank and I didn't find anything like it in the FAQ's, so I was hoping to get some pointers. <Will try> First, some background: my Betta fish, Napoleon, died a few weeks ago of dropsy, I'm not sure what caused it. <Could be triggered by a few "things"> He lived in a cycled Eclipse System 3 tank all by himself with gravel, fake plants, heater, filter, BioWheel, the works. <What in the way of food/s? Water quality?> When he died, I knew I wanted a new Betta but I wanted to make sure that whatever he had got washed out of the tank and equipment WELL before I tried again. <Good idea> I started by soaking everything I was planning on re-using (everything except the gravel, BioWheel and filter pad) in chlorine for a few hours, then rinsing like crazy and leaving it out in the sun for a day or so. I let this all dry for about a week and then I refilled the tank with fresh gravel, fresh filter, fresh BioWheel, water and a dechlorinator. I ran that through the filter for an hour just in case there was any chlorine left on any of the equipment, <Mmm, along with the addition of an overdose of dechloraminator hopefully> then I set the temperature to 87 degrees (thinking it would help with decomposition processes), and added a raw shrimp and a large dose of Nutrafin's Cycle. <Am not a big fan of the latter product... too often it's a "dud"... doesn't work. Marineland's "Bio-Spira" is the only consistently useful product here> Within a few hours, the top of the tank looked scummy and bubbles were collecting where the filter was pumping water. This morning, there was a large "bubble nest" of bubbles at the top of the tank, and the scum was grayish and hanging strangely from the top (sort of resembles small amounts of grey melted pizza cheese in some areas, is more of a thin film in others). <Yeeechh! Shades of Alfred E. Neumann!> By this evening, the tank was cloudy as well and the filter pad had started to have little grayish scum pieces on it. So I was wondering what I should do now. Is this a natural part of cycling (something I'm relatively new to) or is it the remnants of Napoleon's disease re-manifesting itself? Is a whole shrimp too big? <I think so> Should I do a water change or start over? <I'd opt for the latter... and Bio-Spira> Do I need a new Bio Wheel or can I still use this one? <Can be rinsed/cleaned and re-used, no problem> Is Cycle the problem? Let me know what to do to rectify this situation and do a good job cycling my tank. Thanks! Katherine North Carolina <What is that Billy Idol song refrain? "Start again!" Bob Fenner>

Eclipse Aquarium/Cycling   8/27/06 Hello! <Hello Trista> I recently acquired (and am in the process of fish-less cycling--two weeks in and getting spiking nitrite levels) a five gallon eclipse aquarium with a charcoal filter and bio wheel.  The manufacturer suggests that the filter be changed one to two times per month, but then, they also say that the tank need only run for 24 hours before adding fish.  Given that they give such bad advice about cycling, I'm wondering how often I REALLY need to change the filter.  And if it really is that often, should I wait until after the tank cycles, or should I start changing it now? <I believe you may be reading into that wrong.  You can add fish after 24 hours.  The fish produce waste, and this is needed to start the nitrogen cycle. I would add one or two fish at most until the nitrogen cycle is complete, then you can add one or two more.  Monitor ammonia levels after every addition, and when safe, you can add additional fish until you reach the aquarium's stocking level.  The frequency of changing filter pads is going to depend on the stocking level and or waste produced.  Once a month would be my minimum change.> Thank you for your excellent website! <You're welcome.  James (Salty Dog)> <<Ah, James... this is a five gallon... Need other means of cycling, including time going by. RMF> Trista

Re: Eclipse Aquarium/Cycling  8/28/06 Understand this Bob.  Am thinking this gal is going to be running freshwater as she mentions nothing about salt, <Agreed> so six or seven Cardinals/Neons along with a catfish wouldn't be out of line. Also, in reading into her query, I'm thinking she is aware of the nitrogen cycle.  Did mention to monitor ammonia levels before adding any more fish.  A five gallon salt, yes, much too small a tank.  Should have asked her if this was going to be a SW or FW. Thanks, James <Hotay... I think this comes down to a very thin line... likely in most cases there would not be "too much" stress from minor stocking, cycling... but some (to me significant) percent of time there would be, might be. Thanks. BobF>

Tank Cycling - 25/8/06 Hi there!   I need your astute advice on this. <'astute' is my middle name... (ahem.. yeah, right...)>   I had an aquarium go "bad" with, I guess, ammonia and nitrates, etc. <You need to be testing for these with test kits. Beats guessing.> Several fish died before I removed them and the survivors went on living in a noncontaminated aquarium. <It's not a matter of an aquarium being 'contaminated' or not... it's all to do with the ability of the biological filter to be able to respond to the fish load and convert their wastes fast enough. Indeed, if the filter in the new tank is not used to such a heavy fish load, you'll soon be facing the same issues there.>   I then tried EVERYTHING to bring the ammonia, nitrates, etc. down, but I'm having a helluva time! I've vacuumed at least three times and withdrawn much of the old water and replaced it.  I've put in practically a whole bottle of NovAqua in but the bad stuff doesn't seem to subside. <How are you measuring this? What 'bad stuff'? I wouldn't dump a whole bottle of anything in...> Why does it seem so difficult to do this?  Is there something I'm missing? <If I were you, I would research "cycling" (the process of establishing a biological filter) - on WWM and on many pages on the net. If you are in the US and can purchase the "bio-Spira" product locally, it may be your best chance not to kill more fish at this stage.> I want to get the fish back in there ASAP, but it just doesn't seem to be responding! <More reading! Thanks for writing in, hope you get the tank under control. Best regards, John>   Thanks,     Leslie

Re: What next?   7/31/06 Tom, Thanks so much for your help. <<Hello, April. Happy to be of whatever help I can.>> I will replace the carbon filter. <<Good.>> I thought I would go ahead and put it back in until some more of the ParaGuard (ich medicine) was gone with water changes. <<Okay, this won't hurt.>> This is where I'm confused. You said to keep checking the water before adding fish. Didn't the ich meds also kill the bacteria in the bio wheel? Will there be anything to check in the water? <<My apologies for not being clearer on this point, April. First, I'm frankly operating from the standpoint that the medication damaged, if not wiped out, the beneficial bacteria that had started to colonize. (It may not have killed a single bacterium but, if there's a time to err on the side of caution, it's now.) What this means is that we're going to treat this tank like a new one. This is going to require a test kit (I use the Aquarium Pharmaceuticals test kit, myself) and, a source of ammonia. We could use fish food or fresh shrimp - without cocktail sauce - but I'd like to take this up a notch with your help. At your local hardware store, you should be able to find 100% pure ammonia without all the goodies like scents and the like added. It may be labeled as 'Clear' ammonia, as well. The main thing is that it can't have additives. With test kit at the ready, add enough ammonia to the tank ('baby' increments) to bring the ammonia level up to where the tank water reads about 5 ppm when tested. Keep track of how much you add because this will be done on a daily basis. (Too much hassle? This will cut your wait from 30 days to perhaps 10-14 days. Might even be less if your bio-colonies didn't take a big hit.) Now, here's where the daily testing comes in. What you want to see are nitrites being produced. This will indicate that ammonia-oxidizing bacteria are developing(*). Once you detect nitrites with the test kit, cut the ammonia dosage to 1/2 of the original amount per day. Continue with this dosage until you test and find both readings at 0. At this point, you're ready for some pets. (*)Someone is sure to ask what would happen if the beneficial bacteria were never harmed, i.e. wouldn't the bacteria keep reducing the ammonia and nitrites to 0 and turn this into an indefinitely long process? In a word, "No." 5 ppm (mg/l) ammonia is far more than fish will produce daily, therefore, regardless of how "cycled" a tank "may" already be, the bacteria will still have to multiply to handle the load and nitrites will be produced. We're "overloading", in a manner of speaking, except that no fish will die or, be harmed, in the process.>> Then, if there is still good bacteria in the water, should I get a sponge filter and start to run it in my 16 gal. tank so I'll be closer to having a quarantine tank ready -or- should I get the 10 gal. quarantine tank ready with a new filter and get fish in it first?   <<Put the sponge filter in and allow it to cycle in the big tank. When the big tank is cycled, your sponge filter will be cycled, as well, and ready to be moved to the 10-gallon tank...QT-ready. That's not just "advice", April. I keep a hang-on filter in my main display tank all the time for QT purposes. :)>> I'm not sure which tank (a new quarantine tank or the existing tank that was medicated) will be safest for new fish. <<Won't make any difference since your new fish will be spending at least two weeks in the QT. Properly handled, you'll be enjoying your new fish, albeit it in the QT, while your big tank continues to square itself away. No worries.>> I don't know if I can handle more fish dying! <<Actually, April, our job is to try to have your fish die...of old age. :)>> April <<Please get back to me if there's anything at all that isn't crystal clear. Tom>>

Please help! FW trials... - 7/25/2006 Hello <<Hi. This is Lisa.>> I have been reading your site and I am so so so confused. I just got a 10 gallon tank and I have two filters going, one on top that came with the tank and one that is under the gravel. <<Did you cycle it? http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm.>> We first put two mollies, two glow fish <<Oh god, glow fish. Please refrain from buying these, and dyed fish.>> and one iridescent shark all together in the tank. <<That iridescent shark grows to over 50'! That's right 'over four feet long, and needs a school to be best.  That fish doesn't belong in most fish stores, let alone in a 10-gallon tank. That's horrendous.  Please take the fish back to point of purchase, tell them how horrible it is that they sold it to you for your 10-gallon, and please, please research your pets before buying them.>> For one week they all were doing great! <<A whole week'¦>> Then the unexpectedly one molly had babies. SO much fun! Still... all doing well. Then the shark came down with ick. We treated the entire tank for a couple of days and all seemed back to normal. Now... our mollies are all dying. We are very sad and SO confused. This may seem like a really dumb question... how do I test the water and for what? <<Get test kits for at least ammonia, nitrite and nitrate.>> What else can I do? <<Return your fish to the store, read about cycling, perform a fishless cycle on your tank, then think about buying appropriate fish.>> We are planning on moving the tank to another room, any suggestions? How often do we need to change this type of tank water? <<Right now that is unimportant.  You have bigger 'fish to fry'.  Get your fish back to the LFS.>> Will a snail help the overgrowth. <<Overgrowth of what?>> Oh... I am really sorry. I have been reading all your Q&A and I am SO confused. PH.. Nitrate.. ammonia.. so confused. <<Cycling in a very quick nutshell:  Fish secrete waste in the form of ammonia.  This is deadly to them and builds up quickly.  There is a bacterium that will develop in the tank that will eat the ammonia and turn it into nitrIte. This is also a very toxic substance.  There is another bacterium that will eat the nitrite and turn it into nitrAte, a far less toxic substance at low concentrations, which is most easily removed by water changes.  Fishless cycling is done by adding ammonia (with NO fish present) or decomposing fish food to the tank for a few weeks until you see ammonia, then nitrite rise, then see those to go to 0, and nitrate show up.  You must keep feeding the bacteria or it will die.  Do not be fooled by products claiming to have bacteria in a bottle, except for Bio-Spira.  It is refrigerated, and is the only product that works at all.>> I really really really appreciate any advice you could offer me! Many blessings ~ Rachel <<Please get your fish back to the store Rachel. DO the right thing and learn before you buy. Lisa.>>

Some questions for your excellent FAQ... FW... cycling/stkg... op.    7/13/06 Hi Guys, <And Gals...> Thanks for the great FAQs! <Welcome> I'm fairly new to this, so I have a few questions.  I have a 5 week old 30 gallon tank with 10 tiny neon tetras, 4 small Dalmatian mollies, 2 small clown loaches, 4 small guppies, 1 small golden algae eater <Keep your eye on this... gets mean> and 2 small platies, all gradually added over the last 3 weeks.  By small I mean approx 1-1.75 inches long.  All appear healthy and active. Cycling is probably almost complete, although ammonia gets up to 0.5 occasionally <Toxic, stressful... should be zip, nada... before ever introducing aquatic life> so I do a weekly 20% water change. Ph is 7.2, nitrite is 0.0 I've read that the mollies like some aquarium salt - should I add some, given the other fish in the tank? <... no... the Neons don't "like"/tolerate it...> My clown loaches look fine and have good colouring, dark black and reasonably bright orange stripes, so I guess they are healthy, but they never seem to eat anything! <Try frozen/defrosted Bloodworms, Tubifex...> I bought some Hikari loach sinking pellets, which the mollies and neon's love, also some sinking algae pellets, and plenty of flake food, but so far I've never seen them eat anything.   For the first few days the loaches hid a lot, but lately they've been happily swimming around pecking at the bottom, but show no interest at all in the pellets.  Are they starving? <Not yet... may be the ammonia...> The mollies have the opposite problem, greedily eating everything as fast as they can. I add a load of flake food 2 or 3 times a day, and they eat it in under a minute - should I add more than this - it seems a lot! <I would feed nothing if ammonia is present> Lately, 1 neon tetra has started swimming head up, tail down, and has to fin continuously to stop from sinking.  I guess he has a swim bladder infection? <Mmm, no> Should I put him down to save the other fish from being infected, or risk it and hope he gets better? <Fix the environment...> Finally, I have some bushy plants which a growing very fast and look very healthy at the top, but the leaves are growing brown and falling off at the bottom. Is it now too dark down there, as the top of the plants are causing deep shadows? <Read on WWM re growing aquarium plants...> Can I simply chop off the bottom 2-3 inches of stem and plant them back in the gravel, or will that kill them?   <For many species this will work out fine, but not all> Alternately, should I lop off the tops to give the bottom leaves more light and hope new leaves grow? <What species?> Thanks! Mike. <Do give a read on the subjects of FW cycling, Ammonia, the species you've acquired, intend... on WWM. There is much to relate here, for you to know, be aware of. Bob Fenner>

My nitrates aren't rising, FW cycling, ammonia   7/3/06 Hello there,     <G'morning Sara>   I've been cycling my tank for seven weeks but I think I'm doing something wrong.  In all this time, my nitrites and nitrates never rose above zero, and test results have been consistently around 79 deg/8.0pH/1.0AM/ 0 NO2and3/300 KH&GH.  My Ammonia level rose to 2.0 in the past couple of days <Oh... the nitrites, nitrates are coming> so now am wondering if it's a good idea to change the water to bring it back down and risk losing the good bacteria that's built up.  I'm really trying to be patient but I really want to add more fish. <... there should not be any fish present currently> I'm new to the hobby so I'm also trying to do things the "right way."  Any help you can provide would be much appreciated.  Here's the background...    Week One:  Setup 20g freshwater tank with bio-wheel filtration for 50g, gravel, sandstone rock, heater, plastic plants, and decor and let it run for a week to ensure that things were working properly.  During this time test results hovered around 82-77deg/ 8.2pH/0.5-0.25 AM/ 0 NO2/3.  I also tested my tap water and got inconsistent results, one day 7.6pH and other days 8.8pH. <... too much vacillation here. Something is awry chemically or your test kit is bunk> I add AmQuel plus to the water in the bucket and stabilize the temp before adding to the tank. I tried to lower the pH by taking out the sandstone rock (no change) and changing 10% of the water which brought about a slight change but pH is consistently around 8.0, so I'm not going to fight it.    <Good>   Week Two:  Added two fancy guppies (Tequila Sunrise) to start the cycling process. <Not necessary. See WWM re> They seemed a bit timid and kept swimming to the top to get air, though not in a desperate way and not really gasping.  Nevertheless I added an air stone, so between and it and the bio-wheel, the fish did much better with the increased aeration, meaning they hardly swam up to the surface to get air. I fed them sparingly once a day. Test results were 75-77deg/ 8.0pH/0.5AM/ 0 NO2and3/300 KH&GH consistently.        Week Three: I added three more Tequila Sunrise guppies to help speed up the process ... I know not much patience shown here but I figured 5 inches of fish for 20g should be OK.  Thankfully the addition really seemed to help as all five males enjoyed each other's company and seemed to happily play in the moving water and find spots to sleep in.  Two of the new fish showed some frenetic activity by swimming up and down the sides of the tank and I did notice a red dot on the tail of one of the original guppies so I thought, uh-oh, ammonia poisoning! <Likely so> I changed 20% of the water and monitored several times a day.  Test results were consistently 77-79deg/ 8.0pH/0.5AM/ 0 NO2and3/300 KH&GH.  I added a small piece of driftwood to lower the pH and hardness, and while the fish like the wood, no real change seen.  The fish seemed very active so I turned off the heater but still temp stays between 77-80 which is a little warmer then the temp in my house.  Tank is not near a window or a drafty area but I took out the heater anyway.      Week Seven:  I feed the fish twice a day, trying not to overfeed (but sometimes I do).  Water clarity is pretty good, and it never got too cloudy with the five fish.  There was a week where a lot of dust seemed to be floating in the water so I rinsed out the filter (a mistake right?) to see if that would remove the dust and it helped a little.  Maybe the dust was actually little bubbles from all the aeration? <Actually just high concentrations of microbes free in the water> As for the tank temp, my air conditioner stopped working so my home got pretty hot which brought the tank water to 82 deg one day.  Other than the one day heat wave, testing during these weeks produced consistent results of 77-79 deg/8.0pH/1.0AM/ 0 NO2and3/300 KH&GH.  And despite my newbie efforts, the fish seem to be doing well - no frenetic activity, no gasping for air, no signs of aggression or illness (red dot previously spotted now gone), enjoying the small feedings, and continue exploring the tank.   Yesterday my ammonia level rose to 2.0 and after I topped off the tank (5%) the ammonia level still remained at 2.0.  Maybe I'm overfeeding? <I would not feed at all if ammonia approaches 1.0 ppm> I want to keep the good bacteria but should I do a water change to bring it down?  Also, why aren't my nitrites/nitrates changing? Seven weeks should be long enough right? <Mmm, not with your changing things... adding the driftwood, trying to modify pH...>      What kind of fish do I want to add you ask?  Well I started off wanting a community tank of colorful fish but given temp, pH, and water hardness, it seems that my tank is more suited to African Cichlids but since I have guppies that isn't going to work.  So now I figure I'll just have an all male guppy tank.  3 different colorful varieties or a total of 15. <Should make for a nice display>   I did get some Bio-Spira but I haven't used it to give this traditional method of patience and starter fish a chance to work. <I would use the BioSpira product... immediately. The "traditional method" you speak of is outdated... no longer in favor. Too hard on livestock, too likely to introduce, entrench problems...> It seems that whatever I'm doing isn't working.  Please help!      Thanks in advance!! <Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above, especially http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwammfaqs.htm Patience my friend. Bob Fenner>

Cardinals need help ASAP!!!  - 06/20/2006 Hi, <Greetings> Nice site. <I think so too!> I have a 55 gallon tank with 3" of  eco-complete, a 250 watt heater, light, driftwood, moderate amount of plants,  etc. The temperature is 84 degrees, ammonia .25, nitrate 20 ppm. I waited a week  for it to establish, then added 16 cardinal tetras (1") and 5 "pea puffers"  (3/4"), as well as 30 or so glass shrimp. That was this past Saturday. Monday  morning, I found 3 tetras dead on the filter, 2 of them with their fins torn,  but with no other visible damage. 2 Glass shrimp were also dead at the bottom.  In the afternoon, I found one puffer drifting around with the current, but not  quite dead (fins were still moving), so I placed him in a small Betta cage that  attaches to the inside of the tank to isolate him. A few hours later he was  dead. Today at 1 PM, I put Hagen cycle in the tank (help with cycling/ammonia).  An hour later, another cardinal was dead, another laying down on the gravel,  still alive, but barely.  They all seem to be  eating alright, and I thought I took care of the cycling with the eco-complete  and plants, so I don't know what's wrong! What is killing all of my fish? Please  tell me how I can remedy this problem. <Ammonia and/or other toxins are killing your fish.  The .25 reading of ammonia you currently have is very bad - you definitely need that reading to be at zero.  Bottom line, your tank isn't cycled (and the Hagen Cycle isn't going to cut it) - you need to do a large water change ASAP, and you need to continuously monitor the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels until you see them spike then return to zero.  At that point, the cycle will be complete.  The catch is that you currently have live fish in your tank - you absolutely cannot allow any ammonia or nitrite to remain in the tank while the fish are there.  Best to cycle the tank w/o live fish (using a little bit of fish food works just fine), but now since you already have the fish, all you can do is lots and lots of water changes. Do read here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm Basically, you completely overloaded your tank's ecosystem by adding way too much livestock at one time.  Please take advantage of this "nice site" to do some reading prior to sacrificing any more fish.  This problem has been addressed time and time again in the FAQs, and there are many helpful articles devoted to properly setting up an aquarium.> Thanks, Anthony <You're welcome. Jorie>

Cardinals need help ASAP!!! PART 2  6/21/06 Um, would bio-media from another tank be helpful? I have  a 125 gallon that has been established for over a year. <Yes, transferring biomedia from an established tank will help speed up the cycle.  You may even want to use some of the water from the established tank in your new tank.> Also, I thought  that water changes slow down cycling, or is this just a myth? <No, it's not a myth - right now you have a catch 22 - while you need your tank to cycle, since you have fish in it, you cannot allow the ammonia, nitrite and nitrate to spike as they could in a fishless tank.  In order to preserve the fish, you need to change the water and keep the toxins out of the tank.  You are correct in that this will slow down the cycle, but with livestock in the water, you really don't have any other choice.> Thanks, Anthony <You're welcome.  Next time try fishless cycling, as mentioned previously. Jorie.>

Cardinals need help ASAP!!! PART 3 a/k/a cycling a FW tank with fish  6/21/06 Hi, Time for part 3! <Indeed.> This morning I found three more dead fish! A puffer and two cardinals. I did a 40% water change as soon as I could. Should I add bio-media  from the other tank later today, or wait till tomorrow? Should I continue to add Hagen cycle? Should I do water changes everyday until it is finished cycling?  Fresh water or from another tank? What percent of water? Finally, do you  think they will all die? Sorry about all the questions, I'm just worried! Thanks, Anthony <OK Anthony, I will be as clear as I possibly can.  This is what I would do: 1. Invest in a good liquid test kit that measures ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, at a minimum.  I personally like Tetra's Master freshwater kit. 2. Take a reading of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate. 3. If there is *any* ammonia or nitrite present, do a substantial (50% at least) water change with clean, fresh water matched as closely as possible for pH and temp. (you don't want to shock the fish you have).  A small amount of nitrate present is acceptable, as nitrate is the least toxic to fish out of ammonia, nitrite and nitrate, but it's still harmful in large quantities.  Generally, you don't want to have a reading higher than 20 PPM.  The test kit you are using should have a chart for you to consult. If unsure, do another water change - that certainly can't hurt. 4. Take another ammonia, nitrite and nitrate reading *after* doing the water change. 5. Repeat steps 3 & 4 as needed. I am not quite sure how to make this any clearer: ANY DETECTIBLE LEVELS OF AMMONIA OR NITRITE WILL VERY QUICKLY KILL YOUR FISH.  You must remove these toxins ASAP or your fish will continue to die.  Don't just do water changes daily, but keep changing the water until ammonia, nitrite, and ideally, nitrate, levels are at zero. Do a search on the internet for "how to cycle a freshwater fish tank" or something similar - you'll find tons of articles and information. Once you've gotten the toxins under control, you may want to do another water change, this time using cycled water from your larger, established tank as the replacement water.  I'd say no more than 25%. Ditch the Hagen product - it's worthless in my opinion.  Just be diligent with testing for toxins and doing your water changes and everything will take its normal course (i.e., cycle). Finally, don't overfeed your fish...just feed a tiny little bit, especially while the cycle is establishing itself.  Uneaten food on the bottom of the tank will only contribute to the toxin build-up you are experiencing. I am, as always, glad to help, but you really need to educate yourself on the process of the nitrogen cycle in freshwater tanks, my friend...please take the initiative to do some reading on your own, and everything I'm telling you will become more clear and understandable... Best of luck, Jorie>

Re: Cardinals need help ASAP!!! PART 4 a/k/a cycling a FW tank with fish PART 2 a/k/a source water with ammonia  6/21/06 Hi, <Hello...again> Part 4! <Mmm hmm...> I greatly appreciate all of your help. I have been continually testing  (with 2 new kits!) and changing water as stated. I also know of the nitrogen  cycle and have cycled many tanks before, without a problem like this one. This  afternoon, I tested the water with both kits. One said the ammonia was .25  (Mardel) , the other, .6 (Jungle). So I changed 40% of the water, and tested  again immediately after- to my surprise, it was actually higher! On both test kits. I was in disbelief, it just didn't make sense! Then, I  thought to myself, could it be my tap water? I tested my tap water, and to my  surprise, it was between the .25 and .50 on the Mardel one, and darker than .6  on the jungle (as high as it goes). SO, my tap water's ammonia is  higher than my tank's water! So, should I stop changing water, and  just wait? Thanks, Anthony <OK, good that you've identified that the source water is the problem.  I'm curious how this doesn't affect your other tanks... In any case, doing nothing isn't an option, as it truly is a matter of time before all your livestock will die.  Depending upon how much water you want to produce at one time, you can either (1) buy RO/DI (reverse osmosis/de-ionized) water from your LFS, (2) purchase your own RO/DI unit (I recommend products from www.airwaterice.com), or purchase the "Tap Water Filter" made by Aquarium Pharmaceuticals.  The first option may be your best bet to get some clean, non-toxic water ASAP, but in the long run, the RO/DI unit will serve you well.  The Aquarium Pharmaceuticals product is a much less expensive product that gets the job done (e.g., removing impurities), but takes a long time and uses cartridges fairly quickly, especially if your source water is particularly bad.  I believe www.drsfostersmith.com sells the Tap Water Filter, as do most chain pet stores. With either the RO/DI unit or the Tap Water Filter, you will need two additional products - I use a combination of ElectroRight and pH Adjust.  Basically, when these filters are taking all of the toxins out of the water, they are also removing some beneficially minerals and other substances.  Use according to direction on the bottles.  I make water in 5 gal. jugs (I have a couple left over from many years ago when I purchased RO/DI water from the LFS) and this works well. Finally, you may want to look into an additional filter media called PolyFilter...although it isn't a substitute for manually removing ammonia via water changes, it can help by removing some toxins as well. Do look into finding a good source of water ASAP - you still need to change the water again if those ammonia readings are even close to accurate!  Call around to local fish stores and see if you can buy some water for the time being. Good luck, Jorie>

Re: Cardinals need help ASAP!!! PART 5 a/k/a cycling a FW tank with fish PART...  6/21/06 Part 5... Just Kidding! <LOL!  Whew...> Thank you! I will look into the RO units - I have been thinking about purchasing one for a while now. <Good idea.  I know they are expensive, but in the long run, they are well worth it.  I absolutely *love* my unit from www.airwaterice.com!> Also, about my other tanks, I think the water company  has just started to recently add ammonia, or something that causes it, as a year or so ago I did test my water and no ammonia was present. <You should be able to contact your local municipality and get this information...> 2.) I only do 10% water changes every 2 weeks or so, so I think the other tanks just handle it! <Possibly...I'm sure these tanks and their inhabitants will much appreciate the RO/DI unit as well, though!> Thanks for all your help - I really do appreciate the crew! Anthony <You're welcome.  Best of luck to you and your fishies...Jorie>

New Tank Cycle 6/4/06 My nitrites are at dangerous levels (between 5 and 8 ppm), so I moved all my fish to another, chemically balanced tank.  I have a 40 gallon tank, with plenty of filtration.  My levels are at this right now Nitrates:0-5 ppm Nitrites: 5-8 ppm Hardness: about 200 pH: 8.2 Temp: 77 degrees Now I'm doing daily partial water changes, but the nitrite level seems to be hardly decreasing at all.  Is it normal for it to take a long time for it to drop?  Could it be that my tank has not fully cycled? <Yep, can take up to a month.> I cycled it with some goldfish (bad idea?) for about two weeks. <Cycling with live animals is always a bad idea.>  Should I have kept them in there longer?  I lowered the pH to about 7 for the goldfish, but I let it go up to 8.2 for the Malawi Cichlids that should be in there.  Do you see any glaring oversights/errors?  What is your advice? <You are moving too fast.  Slow down and let the tank complete its cycle.  All should be fine with a little patience.> <<RMF would add that using "feeder" goldfish for cycling for other species is a double mistake. You've likely introduced parasites in this process that will infest your cichlids...>> Humbly thanking you, Nick <Chris>

Adding Cycle tm. to a Tank  5/31/06 HI, <Hi Ricky, Pufferpunk here.> I really missed you guys/gals. I relocated &  re-started fishkeeping. <Welcome back!> Well here's my story:  I started up an 18g  freshwater tank w/a Whisper power filter, about 9 weeks ago, with 9 small zebras as  its inhabitants.  The tank had been running about 2 weeks when I took a  3 1/2week vacation.  I left the tank w/an auto feeder & a timer for the light (12 hrs on--12 off).  When I returned the  tank was loaded w/ algae but all the fish were alive. The tank had been now running for a little over 5 weeks & still tested for ammonia. <No surprise there.  did you do any water changes during that period?> I  cleaned the algae off w/an aquarium brush, cut the lights off completely & changed the filter cartridge as the water was backlogging.  Note: this filter has a sponge after the filter cartridge. No more algae  problem.  I subsequently added 6 more large zebras (I know-big  mistake) & a combination (original & new)  of 7 died within a week.  Ok--basically everything has stabilized--no more  deaths--but next Tuesday the tank will have 10 weeks & as of yesterday it's still testing between .50-1.0 ppms for nitrite, ammonia's ok. The tank has been testing like this for the past week & a 1/2--it appears to be stuck in Nitrite "neutral". Note: this is a bare tank except for an air wall & heater (which is off because the northeast is heating-up). <It is best to have gravel substrate for good bacteria to develop on.> I feed the fish every other day a pinch of food.   I also did some water changes & added a product called "Cycle".  How do I get this tank to end its endless cycle?? <You can start by throwing that product "Cycle" away.  It is pure junk & is doing nothing but hindering your cycle by adding dead bacteria (waste) to your tank.  Start doing 50% daily water changes, until the nitrites are 0.  To instant-cycle your tank, do a water change & add Bio-Spira to your filter.  I am against the old-fashioned practice of cycling with fish.  Either use Bio-Spira for instant cycling or do a fishless cycle.  See: http://www.thepufferforum.com/articles/water/fishless.html > Thanks--Ricky  (desperate to add my Black Mollies) <Since mollies are actually brackish water fish, it is not a good idea to mix them with zebra Danios.  ~PP>

Unintentionally recycling a tank 5/26/06 Last night I cleaned my fish tank out completely (took the fish and everything out) but when I was done I looked at my cichlids and they were all at the bottom of the temporary tank and I was frantic and I panicked, I was scared. <Ammonia build-up in a new tank> So I put them in the tank and ran and got some aqua safe. I poured an amount you're supposed to for like a 30 gal (I have a 10) and as soon as it touched them they were upright (not on their sides!) but they're still at the bottom. <In the future use the manufacturers recommendations, not go to overdose anything in a tank> Unfortunately 2 died ( an electric yellow and a blue one, but not an electric blue). Were they in shock? Will anymore die? How long will they stay at the bottom? P.S. how do u fix a crack in a fish tank? right now scotch tape is working very well. <Silicon a panel of glass over the crack, but usually easier to buy a new tank, 10G are cheap and easy to find.  The tape is definitely not a good solution.> Veronica <I usually never recommend completely cleaning a tank for the exact reasons you are experiencing.  The cleaning destroyed the bacteria and now the tank needs to be cycled again.  Watch the water chemistry carefully and do partial water changes often.  Also in the future please capitalize I and sentences, it takes us too long edit the mail before posting.> <Chris>

Unintentional Cycle Part II 5/29/06 Yeah, my tank is so messed up right now. <Not that bad, just needs a little time.>  I think I'll just get a new tank (50 something gallons), but I could put my canal fish in my 10 gal that would be pretty. <Nice>  Unfortunately all but one of my cichlids died and my algae eater died too. <Sorry to hear that. They will be much happier in the new 50G.> <Chris>  

Maintaining Nitrifying Bacteria Without Substrate - 05/20/2006 Hi!  Thanks so much for your wonderful website.   <Thanks for the thanks!  I'm glad you've found it useful.> My husband thinks I have become addicted!   <Shh!  He's probably right....> After many searches, I can't quite find the answer I'm seeking about biological filtration.  In order to prepare a home for 3 African dwarf frogs, I have set up a 5 gallon tank with 3 gallons of water (my research tells me the lower water level prevents them from escaping as well as makes their trip up to the surface for air less stressful).  I've also decided to keep the substrate bare of gravel or pebbles since these apparently can inure the tiny frogs and make it difficult for them to find their food. I've added some silk plants and some smooth, cave-like decorations for them since they enjoy hiding.  My question - and I hope I'm not missing something really obvious here - is about how to maintain beneficial microbes.  I purchased a Whisper filter and have it set on low since the little frogs like their water as still as possible.  But then I read that Whisper filters are not great for biological filtration.   <Mm, they're alright.> My old Marineland Eclipse won't work for the lower water level, since the unit is built into the lid.  I know I can introduce beneficial microbes into the tank by transplanting them from a LFS or with Bio-Spira, <Stick with Bio-Spira, gravel or anything from the LFS will possibly have more than just what you want (ich, etc.).> but what I don't understand is how to maintain the microbes through all the water changes and filter changes (especially since there is no gravel).  Before, my Bio-wheel took care of that.  Do you know of a bio-wheel type filter which will work when the water level is well below the top of the tank?  Or can I create the same effect some other way?   <Yeah, you sure can.  What I would do is get a piece of filter floss or filter sponge (I like the AquaClear sponges for this purpose) and wedge it into the Whisper filter along with the Whisper cartridge.  This way, you can change your filter cartridge and have a chunk of material that will still have a lot of nitrifying bacteria on it.  I would place this piece of material after the filter cartridge so it doesn't get too clogged with particulate material, so you can just keep using it.> Thanks so much,  -Dianne <I hope that works out for you!  Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Maintaining Nitrifying Bacteria Without Substrate, Thanks - 05/20/2006 Sounds like a perfect and easy solution!  I'll pick up a sponge right away.  Thanks so much, Sabrina!  -Dianne <Glad to be of service.  All the best to you,  -Sabrina>

Re: Freshwater 20g... unexpected surprise...  4/29/06 Hi again WWM Crew, <<Hello, Geri. Tom here this time.>> Sorry to be a pest but am now very confused and need some clarification. <<First, you're not being a pest and, second, let's try to work through the, seemingly, conflicting advice.>> Today I purchased a complete testing kit for ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. Suffice to say I had a small shock when my ammonia levels came out at 2.0 ppm!!! <<We've seen worse but you're right to be concerned about these levels...>> Now, I checked through the ammonia FAQ's and there seems to be some conflicting advice. Some suggest to do partial water changes daily (even if the tank isn't cycled, if I understood correctly) and others say to leave the water unchanged until the cycle establishes itself. Hence my confusion. <<Understandable. "Partial" changes will reduce the ammonia levels without necessarily depriving the beneficial bacteria of the nutrients (ammonia) needed to proliferate. Carried to an "extreme", i.e. "large" water changes, you'll completely starve the bacteria. Are we walking a sort of tightrope? Sure, we are. It's the downside of adding fish too soon. When you see admonitions to leave the tank alone, typically, it's because someone has played around so much with the cycling process that nothing will ever establish itself as it should. We never like to see fish in an environment where ammonia/nitrites are present but, we also must accept that complete cycling will not take place unless the system has "run its course". Starting from scratch, we have the luxury of recommending a tried-and-true means of cycling. In reality, we, more often, receive questions regarding what to do "after the fact" based on the information provided to us.>> Would the best course of action at this point be to attempt to locate the Bio-Spira and add it? <<Bio-Spira is the only product, that I'm aware of right now, that contains the "live" bacteria needed to establish, and cycle, an aquarium. Bio-Spira is refrigerated and, must be, in order to remain viable. "Off-the-shelf" products are worthless, including Cycle.>> Will it be problematic with the Hagen Cycle that's already in there? <<No.>> Or, should I just do partial water changes? Or  both? <<If you procure/add Bio-Spira, cease water changes. Water changes will only tend to pull out the bacteria you've spent good money to add to your aquarium. Until you've added this product, continue with small changes (no more than 20%) to maintain ammonia levels as low as possible.>> Oh, by the way, the nitrite level is zero but am assuming this is because the tank hasn't done the initial cycling point. <<Your "assumption" is correct. Until your ammonia levels "zero out", or very nearly do so, your nitrite levels will continue to read zero.>> Thanks again for your help Geri <<You're welcome, Geri. Tom>>

Nitrate & Nitrite in an Uncycled FW Tank - 4/24/2006 Hi <<Hi Gary.>> I was hoping you could help me. <<I'll try!>> I have got a nitrate/nitrite problem.  I have recently started a freshwater fish tank.  Everything was going ok, took the advice of where I bought my tank, read up a few books, and I set the tank up. <<Many fish stores are less than properly educated.>> Then added the water with a water conditioner also bacteria, I left it a few days then added plants and rocks. <<If you added live bacteria, like Bio-Spira (anything else available is dead bacteria at best), it will have died in a day or so without ammonia from fish waster to feed it.  You add your fish right after adding the Bio Spira to your filter.>> I then also left a few days longer approx 4 days, after checking ph levels, ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, calcium hardness and carbonate hardness all seemed to be ok. <<You didn't read ammonia, nitrite or nitrate because your tank hadn't yet started cycling.>> I went and bought my fish a couple of days later and I noticed most of my fish had white spot so I treated that problem with tri sulfa tablets (treated twice).  This is when all my problems now have started the ammonia nitrate & nitrite levels went sky high so I started to do the water changes.  I have now just got the ammonia level down to 0ppm but the nitrate & nitrite are just getting worse. <<Your tank was not cycled, and now is.  Do daily water changes of 75% or more to keep these toxins down while the nitrifying bacteria grow in your filter.>> I suppose you can tell from this that I am inexperienced in aquarium keeping, but I do enjoy fish keeping.  I hope you can help me with this problem, as I am getting more worried about loosing my fish.   <<Keep up with the water changes, and your tank should be cycled in a few weeks.  Read on WWM to learn about fishless cycling for the future.>> I look forward to hearing from you soon Thanks, Gary <<Glad to help. Lisa.  In the future, please capitalize your I's and run your email through a spelling/grammar checker.>>

FW Upgrading issues... a lack of understanding re using feeder goldfish to cycle, mis-mixing them, hypochondria and flim flam products   3/28/06   Hello, I've read quite a few of your FAQ's and have found you folks to very helpful and an excellent source of information. Please forgive the long background rambling as I have done extensive reading from your site as well as others. Due to the loss of three of my favourite goldfish I currently lack confidence that my knowledge of caring for my remaining fish will be adequate. I've maintained a pond and aquarium for a couple of years stocking it only with feeder comets from a very good LFS (Big Al's Edmonton). This xmas I took the plunge and upgraded from my 10 gallon and 20 gallon tanks to a 60 gallon tank. This March I completed construction of the stand and proceeded to stock it with some feeder goldfish from another LFS. The idea was to have these fish start the cycling process for me without endangering my favourite pack of Lionheads/moor/celestial/Ryukin/comets. <Mmm, might transfer pathogens...> In the 60 gallon tank, there were expected losses but the pack of feeders (plus some brave and on-sale tetras) stabilized in number although the plants seem to be struggling. I switched the Fluval 204 from the 20 gallon tank to the 60 (will be bringing in a 404 from another location shortly) and placed 2 AquaClear 150s on the 20 gallon tank and 1 on the 10 gallon tank. The 60 gallon seems ok but my 20 gallon has gone haywire. I have 7 goldfish in there, none over 2 inches in body length. I assumed my tank would have been cycled enough to withstand the switch of filters since I transferred BioMax from the Fluval to the AquaClears but my ammonia levels have skyrocketed. <Apparently not...> I've taken to keeping fish in 5 gallon pails to try and lower the bioload on the tank as well as doing 30% water changes every two days on the main tank. My LFS recommended Seachem Prime to reduce the ammonia levels but I won't feel comfortable until I get those fish out of there. I ordered some bio-Spira from a VERY Non-local FS as it is not available in Canada. I am hoping this will get the 60 gallon instantly-cycled and ready to accept my favourite fish without endangering them. <Should, yes> Unfortunately, a friend noted that one of the feeders in the 60 gallon tank seemed to have developed a significant case of ick (this one was a lurker who hid himself most of the time). <Bingo... have seen this "diseases from feeders" event many times> So far he is the only one that is displaying this ailment and I have removed him to a bowl for treatment with Pimafix and Melafix. <Worthless> I also went ahead and dosed the 60 gallon and 20 gallon tanks with the same medication <These are teas... leaf extracts... not medicinal> as I noted that the celestial and a lionhead seem to have some suspect white dots on their tails as well. This celestial also seems to have a serious swim bladder infection as he cannot get himself away from the surface of the water despite his most strenuous efforts to descend. So now I finally get to a direct question: Will the effectiveness of Bio-Spira be affected/reduced by the continued use of Pimafix/Melafix and Seachem's Prime? <No> I now have two small but expensive koi that I would like to place in the 60 gallon tank after I implement the Bio-Spira instant cycling and am very concerned for their welfare as well. <I would not mix koi and goldfish> Thank you for your help! Regards, Patrick. <Do a bit of reading... on WWM re these animals needs, the chemicals you're pouring in on them. Bob Fenner>

White, cottony growth, PART2... cycling FW   3/14/06 Note: I "lost" my previous email, and did not see a response on your website. I may have missed it (I am not sure of your site's protocol) because I didn't know which area to look in.  Here is original. <Hotay!> Thank you for a very informative site!  I have looked, and looked for an answer, and have not come very close.   I have set up 30 gallon freshwater aquarium with an eclipse hood, gravel without substrate (yet), with the goal of having Discus. <Mmm, though this is a good-sized, type system for breeding, a pair of discus... something considerably larger for growing up/out a grouping to pair them is needed> It has been cycling for 6 weeks at 84-86 degrees, and lately I have been adding some pure ammonia to "feed" the bacteria until I get closer to adding fish. <Take care here... very easy to overdose, subtend nitrification>   Currently the pH is 6.5, Nitrites and Nitrates 0, ammonia "low" (per a dipstick) and have very soft water.  I added a piece of driftwood after soaking it for about 10 days, and a plant from my local fish store that I have found out was originally from a small Wal-mart pre-packaged bulb (a lily?). <Likely an Aponogeton species... see WWM, the Net re>   I use dechlorinator for adding water and have not performed a water change yet. My problem showed up today in the form of a white, cottony "growth" at the base of the plant.  It is mostly around the lowest part of the plant, floats gracefully about 2.5 inches in length, and I noticed several smaller patches of this in my gravel and very small amounts on my driftwood. Before I found out about the pure ammonia, I used some flake food to help get a "cycle" going to create ammonia, and used the product, Cycle, to speed things up. So, problem with the "Wal-mart" plant, driftwood, or old food? <In part, yes... are/is decomposition products...> Should I try to clean the plant/gravel? <I would not at this point... till the system is cycled completely... unless it "really smells bad"> Should I just ignore this.  Or, remove plant, vacuum, clean and start over? Sorry for the direct email, but I do not have a way to go through a POP server for email. <No worries. If it were me, I'd add your gravel, lower the temp. to the upper 70's F., stop the exogenous ammonia additions, use Bio-Spira (drop the Cycle) or just let time go by... monitor your ammonia, nitrite, nitrate... and "dang the torpedoes" otherwise. Bob Fenner>

Freshwater Tank Won't cycle  03/9/06 Hello again, and thanks in advance for the help.  Every time I think I have this hobby figured out, something new comes my way... <Same here> I have a 55 gallon tank with what would probably be called a slightly high bio-load, but it was cycled before and was fine, so I know that the filtration I have can be adequate for that load.  About 2 weeks ago something killed off my bacteria and my ammonia levels shot up.    I think I have narrowed down the cause to one of two things.  I had built a coil denitrator several months ago, and apparently had the flow set too low, as it started spewing toxic gas (swamp smell) <Yikes... dangerous> I took the denitrator out of the equation, and just by chance was putting a new bag of carbon in the sump with a small cut on my hand and noticed a small current where the cut was.  If it hadn't of been for those exposed nerved endings I never would have known.  By process of elimination (plugging and unplugging until I didn't get shocked anymore (not exactly the safest way, but I work with vacuum tubes and was sure to keep my other hand behind my back at all times)) <And not stand in a puddle...> I was able to determine that the "submersible" heater I had in the sump was not as submersible as I had thought.  With the heater replaced, and the denitrator removed, I thought I had removed all possible causes, and sat back and waited for the tank to recycle (doing water changes to make sure the ammonia levels didn't get too   high)  Since then, I have lost a few of the fish, and the tank   refuses to cycle. I have two undergravel plates hooked up to a Fluval 404 (filled with various bio support media) with water being sucked out one and blown back through the other.  I also have a 10 gallon tank underneath  hooked up to an overflow filter dripping through about a cubic foot of bioballs and nylon pot scrubbers.  After about one week of nothing happening I read on your site about bio-Spira.  I've been adding that every other day for the past week and still nothing.  The ammonia levels still keep rising, and I have yet to detect even the slightest trace of nitrite. Knowing that the equation required to get a tank cycling are (a place for the bacteria to grow) + (adequate water flow over that place) + (trace amounts of the bacteria to start with) + (enough oxygen in the water for the bacteria) = cycled tank  I figured the only thing left was perhaps there was not enough oxygen, but I doubted this as the fish seemed to be getting along fine.  Just in case I added more aeration to the sump, and added more bio-Spira, and still no luck. A few other things to mention that might aid in a diagnosis: - 10-20% water changes daily <Cut these out... this and the prior poisoning are likely forestalling the establishment of nitrification> - RO water treated with RO-Right and buffers and brought to a PH of 7 <Add some regular tapwater for mineral> - PH tends to creep up a bit in the tank, but has never gotten above 7.5 - about 3 weeks ago I redid some of the plumbing with newly glued PVC pipe, but that has never been a problem - constant use of fresh activated carbon and Purigen to pull out anything nasty that could still be dissolved in the water - UV sterilizer has been off the whole time <Good> at this point I am at a total loss as to what is preventing the bacteria from getting a foothold. any advice would be much appreciated, -ed Hammond <See the above and let some more time go by. Bob Fenner>

Re: Freshwater Tank Won't cycle... actually, Prime product influenced test results?   3/15/06 Bob, <Ed> Thanks for the reply.  Sadly, things are still not going well.  I've slowed down the water changes so the ammonia levels don't get above   5ppm. <I would not feed at all if the ammonia were more than 1.0 ppm>   I've also cut down on the feedings to the bare minimum, and the tank still doesn't seem to want to cycle.  I've added more Bio- Spira almost daily, I even went and bought it from two different stores just in case the first store had a bad batch.  I've been mixing tap water in with the RO water for the changes as you suggested.  The only thing I have been adding to it besides the buffer and PH down really high PH here) is a few drops of sodium thiosulphate for any chlorine that might be in the water (before that I was using Prime). <... the Prime may be giving you a "false positive" here... do try mixing some in just tapwater, and using your ammonia test kit on just tap, and the mix... See?>   I've brought the PH down from 7 to 6.8 as I read that ammonia is less toxic to fish at lower PH levels. <Yes... and Ed, I do fully suspect that you don't have five parts per million of ammonia... all would be dead> I've been testing daily for nitrite and nitrate, which have shown no detectable amounts.  The fish seem to be acting ok for the most part.  They might be a little stressed out, but that is probably me projecting my anxiety on them. <Ahh!>   Between the bioballs, the Fluval and the undergravel filtration, I figure I have enough surface area to support enough bacterial colonies to deal with a fully stocked aquarium several times my little 55 gal.  Before this all happened my biggest worry was dealing with the high nitrates I was getting.  I even diverted some of my nervous energy into building a fluidized sand bed filter this evening which I will try to install and colonize   with some live sand from a LFS in the next day or so if things don't get better. Is there anything you can think of that I could be missing here?   <It's likely the Prime... there are some other commercial water prep.s that yield these results as well...> It just seems like there is something in there that is toxic enough to keep the bacteria from thriving, but is not toxic to the fish. thanks again for all your invaluable advice, -ed <Bob Fenner>

Re: Freshwater Tank Won't cycle   3/16/06 Bob, thanks for the quick reply.  I was really tired when I wrote the last message and that ammonia level should have been a 2 and not a 5.  I doubt that the readings I'm getting are false due to the prime.  It was exactly for that reason that I switched to the sodium thiosulfate from the prime, and I have changed enough water since then to get out any ammonia that would have been detoxified by the prime. <I see...> I did test the tap water and it was negative for any ammonia. <Good> I went and got a bunch of live gravel from the LFS today and put it in a filter bag in the sump and on top of the wet/dry.  Hopefully this will yield some results. <Yes... along with your other efforts to date> thanks again, -ed <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: Freshwater Tank Won't cycle ... did!  3/21/06 Well, I'm happy to report that the gravel from our LFS really did the trick in about a day and everything seems to be going correctly.  It turns out that you were right and the subsequent ammonia results were the results of Prime being still in the system.  Those reading go down with more water changes every-time. <Ahh!> I've added the denitrator back into the system, but at a full flow rate, and will be very careful to monitor it's output and cut it down slowly to get the desired result, and will be sure it is not cut back enough to start making toxic gasses. thanks again for all your help in making my tank happy once again, and your leading me on the path of knowledge that will hopefully result in me having a much better understand should thing ever happen again. cheers, -ed <Thank you for the update. Bob Fenner>

Bio-Spira  3/4/06 <Hi, Pufferpunk here> I have a 55 g tank that was almost through the cycle and I had to move.  When set the tank back up (tried to keep the gravel and filter media we during the rushed move of the tank) and since it was almost finished I put fish in it.  My problem is it completely crashed and my test kits can't even register how high my level are right now.  I have ordered the Bio-Spira 3oz package and it should get here Tuesday.  I have been reading about it and it seems to be a wonderful product. <I swear by the stuff!  Now you see that almost cycled tank can be a delicate thing.  Never rush when cycling.> My question is that I have been reading that since I have been using Amquel+ to keep the levels in check, along with daily water changes, that if I add Bio-Spira now it will not work.   <Correct> I have seen that they say you should do a 90% water change or if you can completely new water and start from scratch to get the Bio-Spira to work.  Since I paid nearly $70 for the Bio-Spira (no places here carry it and I had to get it overnighted) I don't want to waste the product.  Would you recommend that I start from scratch, I have another tank to keep my fish in for a day or so. <90% is fine.  Be sure to add the Bio-Spira directly to your filter.  Good luck & keep an eye on the water parameters.  It may take up to 48 hours for your tank to be cycled totally.  Keep up with weekly water changes.  ~PP> Thank you, and I hope the product works. Mike

Treating A Tank With A Bio-Wheel - 2/28/2006 Hello, Have been combing the archives and I can't seem to spot this question/answer. I have a 12gal Eclipse with a bio wheel, when you're medicating a tank (ick)-after you're done, what do you do with the bio wheel? I've gotten rid of the carbon in the filter and have a new one ready to put in after the treatment, but am not sure what to do with the wheel-if anything or how to proceed. Thanks, Judy < Before treatment, take the Bio-wheel out of the system and place it in a little dish/bowl with some aquarium water and place it in a cool dark spot like under the aquarium. Keep it moist but not submerged. Treat the tank for ich for at least three days as per the recommendations on the bottle. After the treatment is complete you add carbon to remove any medication. When the tank is clear you can simply reinstall the bio-wheel. Without a fish to host the parasite it will die off in a few days depending on the water temp. This is one of the great things about the Bio-Wheel. This is especially useful when treating with antibiotics.-Chuck.>

Re: Medicated Tank with Bio-Wheel  - 3/1/2006 Thank you Chuck for the quick response! I of course acted first and asked second! :-(  What would I need to do (I pulled the bio wheel after I started treatment) in this instance? Should I get a new wheel and treat the water with a Bio Spira product after the treatment and about a 50% water change? I was so anxious to treat the white spots that I remembered the carbon but wasn't sure about the wheel. Thanks Again, Judy < When the fish are cured add carbon to remove the excess medication. Start feeding after adding the carbon. Be very careful not to overfeed and remove any excess food after a couple of minutes. Check the ammonia and nitrites. If they start to get up there then I would add Bio-Spira.-Chuck>

Movin' on up... not the Jefferson's  - 2/21/2006 Hey Crew. I have a 10 gallon tank with four Cory cats and two dwarf Otos. I recently acquired a 20 gallon tank (currently sitting empty) and would like to transplant the stock from my 10 to the 20. <Good> My question is about cycling the new tank. I know how to do the standard fishless cycle, and can do this if necessary, but I also plan to transfer the existing filter (Aquaclear 150) from the old tank to the new one. <I would...> If I do this, and retain the filter media, will this be enough to cycle the new tank on it's own? <Mmm, I'd move the substrate with if you can... or at least siphon/gravel vacuum it and move a bunch of the water and detritus a few weeks ahead...> I also know that transferring some gravel from the old tank to the new would help, but the substrate has a lot of hair algae on it, and is generally unsightly. I'd prefer not to continue using it. Also, I know the Crew frequently recommends Bio Spira for cycling new tanks. Unfortunately I live in Canada and that product is not available here. No fish stores I've asked have even heard of it. Anyways, I'd be glad to hear any suggestions you may have...thanks in advance for your help. JM <Your plan should work fine here. Not much livestock... just feed carefully the first few weeks after the transfer. Bob Fenner>

Cycling Tank Issues  02/12/06 Hi, I really appreciated your advice a couple of weeks ago, and have a few follow-up questions for you. About 4 weeks ago we set up a new 20 gallon tank (with a Whisper 20 filter) and a day later added two fancy goldfish.  One of our fish died 2 days ago, and I'm desperate to figure out why and make sure the other fish does not meet the same fate.  Since the beginning I've closely monitored the ammonia and nitrite levels by testing every other day, and have never had detectable amounts of either. <Without adding a purposeful bacteria culture? Odd>   Even so, I performed 20% water changes every three days or so for the first two weeks and we fed the fish sparingly.  With each water change I'm siphoning out the water (and trying to clean gravel,) and then adding fresh tap water to which I've added a conditioner (to remove chlorine, give neutral ph, etc.) and the new water is temperature matched (around 67-68 degrees.)  The tank is kept at room temperature and the thermometer strip always shows it's between 66-68 degrees, so presumably it's right at 67. <This is fine> Then I became concerned that we were actually slowing down the cycling of the tank, and let the water changes go for a week (while monitoring the water, which still registered no ammonia or nitrite.)  My husband and son also fed a little more (but still flake food once a day, and only what they ate in a few minutes.)  Then we suddenly had a lot of algae growth on the side of the tank nearest the light (which was on 12 hours a day every day,) and on the ornaments. <A solid indication that cycling has occurred> After reading your site I concluded I should keep the light off as much as possible (now it's on only 2.5 hours in the evening) and I should change the water more often.  I did a water change, and noticed that our fantail did not look well the next day (clamped top fin and suddenly hanging out on the bottom, when he had been very active.) <Better to reduce the percentage of water changed out maybe... and store new water for a week or more> This was after I e-mailed you a question about our Oranda spending time on the bottom, and it was different because the Oranda looked healthy but resting whereas the fantail looked stressed.  At this point the water in the tank was definitely far dirtier (I had stirred up a lot of fish poop in the water change,) and the algae was still growing quickly.  But the fantail would swim when we approached the tank, and was eating.  So I waited a day (so there would be a day in between changes), and then did another 20% water change.  The next day the fantail looked better (I thought) and was swimming around grousing for food again, although I noticed he seemed weak and would swim a little and then float a bit.  He also would get knocked around easily if swam anywhere near the current from the filter.  The next day we discovered that he swam too close to the filter intake and got stuck, apparently too weak to save himself. <Yikes> Strangely, during this time period the Oranda perked up considerably.  We know rarely see him on the bottom, he seems much more energetic and healthier (top fin up, moves quickly, etc.)  So here's my questions: 1)  How often do you think I should be performing 20%  water changes at this point? <Weekly> 2)  Should I be testing our water quality for anything else, like nitrates (I thought these are beneficial, but I've now read that if they are too high they can be bad?!) <Can be... weekly is fine here (for nitrate... And ammonia, nitrite if "something" seems awry)> 3)  Do I need to be monitoring ph, or anything else? <Not likely with the weekly change outs> 4)  Do you suspect that bad water quality killed my fish? <Maybe... this and accumulative stress> 5)  Do you suspect that too frequent water changes killed my fish? <A contributing cause, yes> 6)  Can I safely do anything about the algae at this point?  I thought that it was beneficial in that it feeds off the fish waste, but it's growing on the side of the tank where we view the fish (the green hairy kind) and there's red rusty gunk growing on the ornaments which looks gross. <Can wipe down on the viewing panels... I'd leave on the ornaments for another month or so> I read that I could remove the ornaments, pour boiling water over them, let them cool and put them back in, but I'm scared to disrupt anything while still cycling the tank (I assume that at our temperature and conditions this will take about 8 weeks.) 7)  I was interested in maybe getting a snail to help feed on the algae (I understand this won't cure the problem, but may help).  Do you recommend this?  Should I wait until the tank is cycled? <I do recommend some larger, non-bisexual species... covered on WWM> 8)  We'd like to maybe replace the fish we lost.  Should I wait until the tank is cycled?   <Definitely, yes> Would that be at about 8 weeks? <Should be by then> Can we safely have two smaller goldfish (1.5 inch) and a snail in a 20 gallon tank? <Yes> I guess what I'm trying to figure out is if we have a problem developing in our tank, or if that fish maybe was ill for another reason (internal parasites or swim bladder problem)? <Not likely> If you've made it through this lengthy message, thanks so much for reading and for any advice you can offer. Best, FishMama <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Re: Goldfish Tank Cycling Issues  02/12/06 Sorry, I just sent a long e-mail but realized forgot to ask one other question: Should I get an airstone, or whatever it is you call those things that bubble air up from the bottom?  I thought it might be too much current for little fancy goldfish, but now I'm wondering if it wouldn't help get toxins up from the bottom and oxygenate the water? Thanks again, FishMama <Not likely of much benefit here, though would not hurt. Bob Fenner>

# of fish after fishless cycle, and Pleco Sel.,   2/8/06 Hey gang.  Great website!  (Not to butter you up or anything.)  My little girl (age 5) got a 20 gallon aquarium for Christmas.  We set it up and fishless cycled it with a raw shrimp (fairly large one).  We have the ammonia and nitrites back down to undetectable levels and are in the process of doing water changes to remove the nitrates.   So...it's fish time.  We have on the menu 4 angel fishes, 3 Kuhli loaches, 1 Oto, and 1 small Pleco (wanted a zebra Pleco until we saw how expensive the are...YIKES!!!). My main question is with this fishless cycle, how many fish can we add at once?   <Mmm, best to put in only a few at first... ones that are the hardiest... likely the Angels... though these will get too big for a twenty gallon... the bottom feeders would too likely go hungry at first...> Couldn't find a good answer to this question searching the site (although with this much information, it's easy to get lost in). Secondly, any recommendations on a Pleco that will remain small that is interesting and only cost and arm instead of an arm and a leg and 20 gallons of gas.  Oh, yeah...it can't have spots (remember, it's a 5 year old).  She really loved the zebra, but that's a lot of chores for a fish. <There are a few Ancistrus, Hemiancistrus species to suggest. Do read over re these on the Net (pix on fishbase.org)... and ask specifically re at the store. Not commonly offered> I'm real proud of how she has been patient with the cycling.  She got a Betta about 6 months ago and has been very good with it.  She makes sure that her Mom and I don't overfeed it.  Just want to get her started on the right track with as few painful memories as possible. <I understand, and agree> Thanks for everything and I'm so glad someone out there cares enough to put a great site like this together.  Carry on with the good work!  I'll be checking in again when I finally get my 135 gal saltwater setup soon (hopefully). Phil <Outstanding. Peace, life to you. Bob Fenner>

Help me clear my water... FW cycling, filtration   1/31/06 I have an established 30 gal freshwater tank for 4 years. On Dec. 28th bought a 125gal tank with a Fluval 404.(Sales lady said is was large enough.) I have aquarium sand as a substrate, just enough to cover the bottom. I put a dirty filter (emperor) inside my 404 to help seed it. <Good move> A week later I added four 2 and a half inch Balas. My ammonia never spiked. Water turned slightly cloudy. Nitrates begin to rise. A week later, I added three 3 inch iridescent sharks from my other tank. <At this size, these fish are starting to become "saltier"...> The water became cloudier and brown algae began to grow. Ammonia 0 and nitrates 20. I did a 25% water change and my ammonia spiked to .50. <Yes... the change likely "bumped off" useful microbes> I added Zeolite to my filter. Ammonia returned to 0 in 2 days, but the water got very cloudy again. A week later I added my Pleco from the other tank to eat the algae in the tank. I replaced 30% of the water a few days later. Ammonia spiked again to .50. I added some water from my established tank, about 3 Gal. <Good> Two days later, back to 0.  Now my water is slightly green and very cloudy. I have a bubble wall along the back of my tank although you can't see the bubbles. ammonia is 0 nitrite is 0 KH is 106 pH 7.0 used Proper pH But my GH is off the chart. I can't even measure it. I filled the test tube up with GH solution and it still did not turn green! <Need to dilute this with some water that is more "just water"> I obviously have a bacterial bloom in my water to support my fish population. <Yes... and inadequate (canister) filtration...> That's why ammonia spikes when I remove/replace water. Is time the only thing that will encourage the bacteria in my water to colonize in my filter, on my decoration etc? <Mmm, no. I would add a purposeful bacteria here (the product BioSpira), more of your established systems water, old filter media... of course, hold off on adding any more livestock... and most importantly, add more biological filtration, aeration and circulation> If my fish are safe and I have to live with an ugly tank for a while. I'll do that, but if I can clear my water up some, that would be great! Thanks. Marisa Wortman <Not possible to state whether they will be safe or no... I would have done pretty much what you did... If you can't add to the mechanicals in a short time frame, I would (drain if necessary) remove the present fish life, back to whence it came... allow the system to settle for a month or so. Bob Fenner>

Re: Help me clear my water   2/2/06 Thanks Bob. Two days ago, I bought another 404. Added peat to 1/2 of a chamber. I'm watching my pH. 6.9 for the last 2 days. Will continue to monitor. Can't find BioSpira. My local pet store is out. She said to call back in a week. I bought a tap water filter. I takes forever to make 10 g. I reseeded the old filter. I'm going to place an ornament from the established tank into the new tank today. <Good moves> I have an eight inch tinfoil barb, for whom I bought the tank for the first place, in my 29 gal tank. <Yowzah! No room to zoom> After the tank clears, how long should I wait to add him/her? <A few days after no ammonia or nitrite> What should I do with the Iridescents? I didn't know they prefer saltier water. It's my understanding that Balas don't like it...whoopsie...conflict!   <Give/trade them to someone with brackish to marine system/room> I read online they make good tankmates. You all are wonderful. I appreciate and respect your advice! Marisa Wortman <Glad to share. Bob Fenner>

Freshwater Cycling With Zebra Danios   1/31/06 Good evening Crew, <Wowzah, tempus fugit!> Well, I finally did it-I got fish. Hooray. I decided to start the cycling process with 6 Zebra Danios; they were purchased on Jan. 25th and I put the first dose of Hagen's Cycle in with the new arrivals. I've been feeding them very lightly once a day for the last couple of days, following the instructions in "The Simple Guide to Freshwater Aquariums." I started testing the 26th and ammonia levels have stayed at .50 ppm; no water changes have been performed yet, as the instructions state not to change the water unless it's over 1.0 ppm. I decided to go ahead and check for nitrites, just in case; the test results showed 0 ppm. One question I have is at what point will ammonia begin to spike if I continue these light, once daily feedings? <A few days to weeks> If ammonia levels rise above 1.0 ppm and I change 30-50% of the water, will that dramatically slow down the cycling process? <Yes...> Finally, at what point can I expect to see nitrites begin to accumulate in the tank? <As the ammonia, nitrite disappear. A few comments, okay two: Hagen's Cycle doesn't work often... folks favor Marineland's BioSpira over this... and there's no need to stress, possibly introduce pathogens to your new system with fish livestock in order to cycle a new tank... All covered on WWM. Bob Fenner>

Other Missing FW cycling art. link/graphic - 1/30/2006 Bob, I'm not sure what exactly is missing, but archive.org (a great resource) has a copy of the page with two graphics http://web.archive.org/web/20050315083710/ http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm It can be wonky at times, so I'm attaching the graphic that I believe to be missing. <That's/This is it!> Thank you for sharing so much of yourself, Marisa <Thank you for your acknowledgement, kind words. Bob Fenner>

Ten Gallon Cycling and Maintenance... A sterling endorsement for good Betta Care    1/25/06 Hi, I am back again with more questions, and I do appreciate all of your great, fast responses.  I did have a 3 gallon Eclipse tank w/BioWheel that was set up for almost 2 years housing 1 very large finned OHM male Betta.  He was constantly rooting around in the plant roots snagging his fins, so it seemed logical to me that more space was in order.  I set up a 10 gallon tank 6 days ago, the water was treated with Aqua Nova and 1/2 Tbsp. of salt (just in case I ran into nitrite problems) it ran without the fish for 2 days.  Four days ago, I placed the old BioWheel in a filter bag and hung it on the filter around the outflow, <Good move> I moved a large pile of the old gravel, five 3 inch rocks, and 8 plants (7 java plants, 1 java moss) from the old tank, <Even better> I added 1 new tall piece of driftwood attached to slate base and a thin layer of new gravel which is the small variety rather than the larger I had in my old tank.  I added a couple of teaspoons of BioSpira to the tank and 1/8 tsp to the filter media (BioMax, carbon, sponge) and my Betta (after 45 minutes of acclimation).  My Betta, believe it or not, in 4 days, has shown fin improvement...amazing. <Yay!>   Not to mention attitude improvement.  Let me just add that when people believe they can keep Bettas in small environments, yes, they probably can but the specimen must be hardy or the people are very lucky because even with 3 gallons of water I experienced total mayhem with bacteria, fungus, fighting potential Finrot from snags, etc. <Couldn't agree with you more!> and was constantly performing water changes to improve water quality for 1 fish.  I cannot imagine a Betta in a bowl or in anything less than 10 gallons now, based solely on how happy my Betta appears to be not to mention the actual physical improvement. <Ultra Yay!> I have tested the water 2 times per day, morning and evening.  I have seen no ammonia or nitrite spikes or readings (both remain at 0) but have watched the nitrate rise to 5.0 maybe 7.0 as the test is a bit on the orangey side now.  Nitrate seems to be the only thing rising in the tank. The PH is between 7.0 and 7.2 depending when I take the test (morning or evening) I have an Aquaclear HOB filter and Stealth heater set at a consistent 78 degrees.  My question here is, if I am building nitrates daily and I am getting zero ammonia and nitrite readings will I experience those spikes down the road? <Highly unlikely... given your care in establishing/moving cycling procedures, the dilution of the large/r volume...> I cannot believe that this tank is cycled although I did bring in the old media and added BioSpira (was doing both improper?). <No, both proper>   I am trying to determine when I should consider the tank cycled and when to begin a maintenance schedule (as in vacuuming the gravel and/or changing water). <I'd wait a few weeks more for these> How often should regular water changes be performed in a 10 gallon tank in order to maintain optimum water quality to avoid fin problems and maintain health? <Weekly... about 25% of water volume> I would also like to know when will it be "safe" to remove the old media that I brought in? <A few weeks...> Sorry for the long explanation and multiple questions but I am unclear/unsure if my method was proper and how I should monitor it from here.  Thank you again, I don't know what I would do without you guys!  Sue <Thank you for sharing. You have saved, extended and improved many Bettas lives. Bob Fenner>

Using a Betta for Cycling.. Poor Betta. 1/24/2006 Hello, <<Hello Janice.>> My first visit, but I did send a contribution. <<Very kind of you.>> I'm setting up a new 10-gallon tank for a Betta, couple of Corys, plants and a few snails. The LFS said I could cycle with a Betta. <<Please don't.  There are many ways to cycle without harming anything.>> My question, how is an uncycled tank any worse than the bowl the Bettas are in now? <<A step from horrendous to awful at best I feel.>> I will move over a filter from an established tank. <<Will help.>> Would you recommend I not cycle with the Betta? <<Do you have access to Bio-Spira?  This will 'instantly cycle' your tank.  Please do read about cycling on WWM.>> I'm thinking of using the snails and fish food. Thanks...Janice <<Glad to help.  Lisa.>>

Questions related to tank cycling:   1/7/06 When cycling my tank, should I leave the light systems on or off? I am currently running the lights for 12 hours per day. <Normal light cycle> When cycling my tank, should I leave the air systems on or off? <On> Today I threw some fish flakes in there to create a bit of reaction as I read it somewhere on your site. I also got some algae from the underside of the top glass on another tank I have, and threw that in there. Is that beneficial or harmful?! <Best to use food as you have done> I was going to get some water from the other tank next water change and put that in the new tank. Should I? <Oh yes> I have a large rock I found that probably originates from the ocean as it is full of small holes. It is in the tank now, but how should I test it for suitability? <... place in quarantine, observe for a month or so for "recruits"... check water chemistry for "bad" reactions... pH, alkalinity, phosphate> I bought a gnarly lattice-like piece of wood with a tight grain from my fish shop. The bloke said he understood it to be rosewood, and showed me an example in their tank that didn't have fish in it. The wood had turned a slightly metallic crimson colour after being in the water for some time. Does this wood sound like suitable stuff? After reading your site I'm not sure if I should believe them! <Suitable for what? Would be a good idea to test... the water that the wood has been in contact with... biologically> I hosed the wood down under pressure, hosed the rock out, then put it in the tank with the rock on it to sink it (prior to connecting the filter). After about 4 days the wood stained all the water brown-yellow. I then drained most of the water, tipped in some water conditioner, refilled the tank, connected the air pump, connected the new filter (with carbon), then fired the whole show up. I also added some weed from the other tank. After 4 days, the water is slightly cloudy, a touch yellow, and there are a few fuzzy white growths on the timber that look like spider web or cotton wool. Should I just leave it to let it run its course, or should I be doing water changes and scraping the algae off? <Can remove some... I would leave in place till the system fully cycles> Many thanks for your valued advice! Chris Rankine <Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Cycling a new FW tank without fish  - 01/03/2006 Hi <Hello> I recently received a couple of (supposedly Ryukins, but they're actually fantail) goldfish juvies in a 5 gallon bowl/vase (yes, I know, yikes) with a bunch of Anacharis plants. Therein lies my question. I want to buy them a proper tank/filter/etc for them ASAP, but I would like to cycle the new tank without buying any more fish because I only have room for a 10-20 gallon tank. <Can be done... in a word, "BioSpira"... product of Marineland...> They seem fine for now as they're tiny and I'm faced with the wonderful chore of changing their water daily by about 25-50% depending on clarity and state of the fish (changed the water completely twice, once because little hands decided to add play dough and again a few days after when the water became too mucky for a mere partial water change). <Very hard on the livestock as well> I was going to get an air stone but I'd rather get the tank right away (although I suspect I'll need the air stone anyway since cycling takes so long). Is there any way I can cycle the new tank without buying more fish? <Yes... Posted: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm> I do have one other question. One of the fish seems to make quite a ruckus with the gravel, always swimming around in it (not grazing, per se). It's always been quite active from day one (which granted, hasn't been that long). It also seems to go after the other one quite a bit, but I'm not sure if that's just playfulness. Could it be a sign of distress or symptom of an illness? <Yes...> The other one is very mellow and by all accounts seems to be fine. Thanks for your reply Dagmar <I'd get test kits... for ammonia, nitrite, keep changing pre-treated water, and get these animals into a larger, filtered system ASAP. Bob Fenner>

Cycling a new tank without fish   1/4/06 Hi and Happy New 2006 <And to you> Thanks for the prompt reply. I'll be buying the test kits and the tank (with bells and whistles) shortly.   >> I do have one other question. One of the fish seems to make quite a ruckus with the gravel, always swimming around in it (not grazing, per se). It's always been quite active from day one (which granted, hasn't been that long). It also seems to go after the other one quite a bit, but I'm not sure if that's just playfulness. Could it be a sign of distress or symptom of an illness? <Yes...> Do you have a link that might shed some light into my skittish little fellow's behavior other than water quality? <Mmm, am trying to think of how one might phrase a search on the Google tool on WWM... rather than just read the "Goldfish Behavior FAQs". Maybe just "Goldfish Aggression"> The other one doesn't seem affected so my gut is telling me that perhaps its getting sick or has a nervous disposition. His stool is a bit thicker and whiter (like a caramel color) as well, so I'm concerned. Thanks again! Dagmar <Sometimes one goldfish will dangerously bully its tankmates... often becoming much larger, quicker... causing yet more woe. The best solution here is less-crowding and more plants and other decor to "break up the environment". Bob Fenner>

Bettas And Goldfish  1/1/06 In a message dated 12/30/2005 8:18:55 AM Pacific Standard Time, crew@mail.wetwebmedia.com writes: <<Mmm, not really... please see here re: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm>> I checked out the webpage and got a bit of an understanding of the cycling process, but because the pictures that it was referring to wouldn't load on my computer I was still a bit uncertain that I was understanding everything.  I looked up cycling on other websites and every one of them insists that I prepare the tank for a month before the Bettas are placed into it.  Most of them suggest sacrificial fish for the ammonia contribution- which I'm not sure I'm comfortable with doing, but if that is what it takes, then I guess I will have to.   I suppose if I use fish that can get along with Bettas I can just keep them in the tank with them afterwards- but how many will it take?  I don't really know the cutoff points for overcrowding or if just one tester fish per tank will do. < Add Bio-Spira from Marineland and follow the directions on the bottle. You will be able to add fish shortly.> The only established tank I can think to put the Bettas in for the mean time is the 10 gallon tank that now houses my goldfish.  I've had the goldfish a few months longer than the Bettas.  They have grown 3 times bigger than when I originally got them and they seem happy and healthy, so I must be doing something right with their tank.  It's a large tank so I dealt with it differently than the 2.5 gallon ones.  The problem with putting the Bettas in this tank is that there is only the one tank and the Bettas would kill each other in it- wouldn't they? < Bettas would fight and have different temperature requirements than goldfish.> I used to keep the two Bettas in the same minibowl with a divider between them.  Jackie Chan was fine with this but Bruce Lee would angrily throw himself against the divider for hours and hours.  I decided that it was best that they got their own tanks after that.  Not to mention the goldfish are probably not going to get along with them because they are bigger than the Bettas (about 3 in. long) and I imagine they would probably be nippers. I came up with a solution that I think might work.  If I found some way to divide the 10 gallon goldfish tank into thirds, the goldfish being in the middle chamber, keeping the Bettas apart- then I could put a little barb or Danio in each of the minibowls allowing them to get the water ready for a month,  do you think this would work or would all fishes involved just be too stressed out? < I would just add the Bio-Spira, then check the readings and add the fish. The divider may work for awhile but the temperature requirements would be difficult to maintain for all the fish.> I worry that the goldfish may produce too much waste to be housed in the same tank as the Bettas, but I checked their ammonia level and it is fine.  I do a 20% water change once a week for them using a gravel filter syphon.  Does this sound like a good plan?   <Check the ammonia and let that be your guide to water changes. Don't let the ammonia get above 0.25 ppm.-Chuck>

Going From Brackish To Freshwater  12/10/05 WWM crew, I have a brackish tank which my fish recently died and I want to turn it into a freshwater tank. I was just wondering if I could skip recycling the tank by simply emptying the brackish water and replacing it with freshwater. Hope this question isn't too stupid... thanks. < Brackish is a very loose term that means it is between pure freshwater and pure saltwater. Depending on the exact salinity you were keeping your fish at, after replacing the water, I would still add Bio-Spira from Marineland to cover all the bases.-Chuck>

Bacterial Additives For a FW Tank  12/10/05 Hello again Chuck, I have been searching for stockists of Bio-Spira in Alberta Canada and it doesn't seem to be available here, is there an alternative? I have found stockists of Amquel+. Thanks again - Loraine <There are many bacterial additives on the market but I have found that Bio-Spira from Marineland is the only one that works for me. You may not be able to find it. Look online or contact Marineland directly at Marineland.com. In case you cannot find it, I would place a couple of fish in the tank and continue with the maintenance procedures that I had recommended. Go to Marineland.com and check out Dr. Tim's library for articles and tips on when a tank gets cycled.-Chuck.>

New Tank & the Infants of Platies  12/9/05 Hello there! I am a new aquarist and I love it!  <Me too!> I have had a 29 gallon fresh water set up for about 4 months. Three weeks ago I set up a new 12 gallon tank with three platies. I thought they were unhappy in the new tank as they were hiding a lot, so I moved them back into the 29 gallon tank. Then, to my shock and delight I found a baby in the new tank. You could have knocked me over with a feather! I was hyperventilating like a proud new mum might!  <LOL, yes. Platies have babies. Lots and lots of babies. Congrats on the first of many.> After 3 days, I now have 6 babies. So, I moved the 3 adults back to the new 12 gallon tank and put the babes in a breeding net. <In which tank? Why did you move the platies?> The trouble is that the new tank hasn't cycled yet. I put the bacteria in at the set up. I've been told the tank may not cycle. What's your view? Should I put the babies in the established tank? Thanks so much.  <I think you need to get a test kit and find out what your ammonia, nitrite and nitrate levels are. If you "put bacteria in the tank" either from another tank or using a commercial product, it can jumpstart the cycle. You may get a much smaller ammonia spike or no spike at all. You can simply feed the bacteria fish food for a few weeks and make sure you have 0 ammonia, 0 nitrite and that you are starting to get nitrate. In that way you have cycled your tank. However, if there haven't been fish in the tank for a while, the bacteria haven't had anything to eat and may have starved to death if you haven't been feeding them.  There really is no way to know where you are in the cycle without testing. I'd put everybody in the established tank until your new tank has finished cycling. A few babies may be eaten, but if you have some plants and move them (I like the turkey baster method) to a breeder net, they should be fine. Fish, especially fry, are very sensitive to poor water quality. For more info on cycling, read http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm.> Christina W. <Catherine W.> 

Cycling Issues  12/9/05 Hello, About a month ago I completely cleaned my fish tank (10 gal. I believe.) <Why?> At that time I only had a 5 year old Chocolate Oranda but a week later I purchased a Black Moor (the Oranda seemed to be lonely after her brother died so I picked up the moor for her.) They got along really well together for about a week and then the Oranda became rather lethargic and began resting on the bottom of the tank a lot. Then she began gasping for air constantly and only moving around to find a new place to lay. Now she will not eat. <Not good.> My Moor is still spunky but I think that is because of his youth. Actually, I don't know if it is a boy or a girl yet, :-) but I have noticed him gasping for air at the surface recently and he too gasps when he rests. The tank has taken on a yellowish appearance despite the fact that I have been cycling about 2 quarts of water every other day and there is a thin, slimy film on the tank glass.  <Gasping may be from nitrates, or just poor water quality. Film is possibly algae.> From reading your website I am assuming I have a nitrate problem and will be purchasing a testing kit ASAP. I would just like to know if you think there is something else I should get or if you think there is something else wrong with my fish. <My guess is you have an ammonia, nitrite and nitrate problem. Many kits come with all three tests. They should read 0, 0 and <20.>  Other things you may wish to know are that I have a bubble filter for my tank and the Oranda brother died many months ago from getting wedged under the filter and suffocating (I now keep the filter firmly embedded in the gravel) so I don't think he passed any illnesses on. <Fish don't usually get wedge under something unless they are already weakened.> Thank you for your time and I hope to hear from you soon. Have a good day, Jessica <A 10 gallon tank is really too small for a 5 year old goldfish; much less two fish. I agree your fish are probably suffering from ammonia/nitrite/nitrate poisoning. You destroyed all your good bacteria when you cleaned your tank so the levels of these chemicals are higher than before. The bacteria are coming back, but it takes time. I've got a couple of suggestions.  Increase your water changes to 3 gallons every day. Wipe the algae off the glass. Put some live plants (elodea is a good choice). To make the aquarium cycle faster you can add some BioSpira by Marineland or Cycle (I think it's by Hagen). BioSpira generally is a better choice. Both products add bacteria to your tank. Get a better filtration system -- a hang on the back filter will work. All of these solutions are temporary however. You're probably going to need a 30+ gallon tank to support two growing fish. Try reading http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/gldfshsystems.htm and http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm. Good luck with them. Catherine> 

Maintaining Biofiltration with no Fish 11/25/2005 I have a 3 gallon Eclipse tank with BioWheel, heater, 4 or 5 java ferns and airstone that has been set up for over a year now.  It has recently housed a Betta. My water parameters are:  ammonia 0, nitrite 0, nitrate 5.0 Temperature in tank is a consistent 79 degrees.  I am one week away from getting another Betta, could you please tell me if I need to do something to maintain the tank for a week (in order to not lose my biological filter)? <Just leave all the filtration and lights running as you would if there were a fish in there, a week is not a long time, your filtration should be fine.  Best Regards, Gage> Thank you, as always. Sue

Cycling, Cichlids, Toxicity, Death - 11/22/2005 I have a 70 gallon tank (fresh), newly set up.  <Please.... Formatting.... Have spaces after punctuation where necessary - like this. When you start a new sentence, put a space after the period of the previous sentence.... Same goes for commas.> <<Thank you for correcting.  Marina>> I waited a couple of days and put my fish in (African cichlids). Mistake 1, I'm guessing. <Yup.> Every thing was fine until my 4th week. The fish stopped eating. I tested the water. High ammonia levels.  <Not at all surprising.... Much for you to learn. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm .> I immediately went to the store and added ammonia chips in a satchel and used ammonia lock following the directions. 40% water change done.  <Water changes are the ONLY thing you need, here. Be testing ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate - ammonia and nitrite are toxic at anything above ZERO. Nitrate should remain below 20ppm. If these levels are "off", fix them with water changes. And read that cycling article.... and don't add fish before or during a tank's cycling stage.> On the sixth day the ammonia was still high, but fish resume eating.  <Toxic ammonia levels are deadly. Water changes are necessary, here....> Day 8 (D-Day)! The water started getting cloudy around 1p.m. By 6,you couldn't see S@#%!! <Possibly a bacterial "bloom" from the cycle. In and of itself, harmless, but comes during that crucial "cycling" period, which is not harmless.> All fish dead (I'm using a Fluval 404 filter, recommended by the fish store).  <Died from toxic water conditions, more than likely.> I've changed 95% of the water, replaced charcoal, cleaned tubes, added ammonia chips in a bag in the filter and the ammonia is still high.  <I would pull out the ammonia chips, and just let this tank cycle at this point. Once you've seen ammonia rise and fall to zero, nitrite rise and fall to zero, and nitrate begin to rise, you can begin (SLOWLY!) adding livestock to this tank.> This is almost 2 weeks now. Tap water tested 0. Help me fish Kenobi your my only hope!! <Much for you to read on our site: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwsetupindex.htm . Wishing you well, -Sabrina>

Requesting some advice on Fresh Water Setup  11/20/05 Greetings. <Salutations> I am a beginner and really appreciate all the work and time you devote to this site. Thanks. <Welcome> I have a 10 gallon glass tank with 1 goldfish, 2 African dwarf frogs and 1 apple snail. All seem to be doing quite well. I purchased small colored rocks to line the bottom of the tank from my LFS, as well as plastic plants from the same. I run a filter that came with the aquarium set up (carbon, and filter media). Also have a bubble maker and a separate carbon filter.  One of the artificial plants felt and looked more like a cloth material than straight plastic and this is where I first noticed a slime growing in some areas. Most of the plastic plants now show it in one place or another, as well as some spots on the rocks. When the light is on it looks copper colored but when I checked it out it is actually brownish colored. It appears to be just slimy - not thick, not moldy looking.  <Is likely a mix of algae, other microbial life, natural (though not attractive), of some use> Water levels as follows: Ph = 7.0 Nitrate = 5.0 Nitrite = 2.0 <Way too high> Ammonia = .25 <Trouble, should be zero> Temp = 70 Like some beginners, I had much trouble getting the water levels right. I cycled the tank which is now about 2 months old.  <Not cycled...> Question: I have searched the chat forums and have not gotten the sense that what I have growing in the tank is similar to what others are talking about. My instinct is that it is some how related to over feeding. <Likely so... as is the persistent nitrogenous waste situation> Any ideas of what it could be or how to stop it ?? Again, fish appear to be fine. Many thanks. LAC <Likely inadequate filtration, coupled with mis- and over-feeding. Please do take your time here... Important not to "over-react" and have your livestock further, longer exposed to nitrite and ammonia. Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above re ammonia, nitrite. I'd leave the "gunk" on the plastic plants (and substrate soon) as is, and NOT clean the filter till the ammonia and nitrite are zero for a week or more... Do check into how much of what foods are prudent for your types of livestock, and hold off on cleaning the decor for a few weeks beyond. Bob Fenner> 

OCD With or Without an Actual Diagnosis - So Much Already Posted Will Give Answers  11/13/05 Hi. <<Hello. Marina here (with some TIME on my hands! <look of shock> >> I have a question regarding tank cycling. <<I hope you've read our system cycling FAQs.>> I set up my tank about a month ago and because of my obsessive compulsive behavior (or fear of dead fish) I have been changing 10% of the water on a daily basis. <<Do you have an actual diagnosis? If so, do meds help (I have a sis with a diagnosis)?>> I had an outbreak of ick 2 weeks ago so for the last 14 days i <<I. Not "i", please.>> have been using Aquari-Sol with no filter media. <<What?? Ok, I see you've read little to nothing already posted on the site, or you'd know a few things such as DON'T introduce fish into a display (yes, even an empty one) without quarantine. You'd also know that copper KILLS your tank's biological filtration capabilities, that you're making a mess of things just treating without understanding. And it appears you're treating IN the display tank - this is incredibly bad juju and a spell must be cast. <casts spell> >> (ick is gone) My question is have I been delaying the tank cycle this whole time? <<Don't know, don't know how you're performing the water changes. Oh, wait, YES, you have, because with the use of the Aquari-Sol, you're KILLING the nitrifying bacteria. Here's an interesting exercise: Google "copper sulfate use" (hint: it's a pesticide).>> I have used the product "Cycle"... <<Bunk stuff, BioSpira is the real deal.>> for the recommended amount of time but I'm... <<Cripes, it is "I'm", a contraction of "I am", "I" is ALWAYS capitalized.>> still finding ammonia in my tank <<No wonder.>> and I have not yet seen any high amounts of nitrate or nitrite. <<And thusly, your system is not cycled.>> Should I just invest in a bottle of Bio-Spira from an online dealer? <<That's a start, but your husbandry is where the real trouble lies. All this stuff can, will, DOES happen naturally, but not in the presence of poisons (and don't get me wrong here, copper DOES have its uses, but this is toxic stuff, not to be messed about with lightly, ignorantly).  The BioSpira will boost your numbers, but your practices may well kill them.>> (my LFS does not carry it) Thanks a lot for taking time to help me! <<My friend, you really need to do a lot of reading (well, some to start at least), and you must understand some things, especially in regards to WHAT "cycling" really is. First, it's nothing more than culturing bacteria. You can do this sans fish (and it's considered the more humane and effective method).  Second, you must understand HOW and WHERE the bacteria live, or you cannot culture them. If you're vacuuming daily along with these water changes, you're removing the very bacteria you're waiting on to grow. Third, you need to understand what the bacteria do - they oxidize ammonia via consumption through two species. One species "eats" ammonia, and "poops" nitrite, another "eats" nitrite and "poops" nitrate. There is a third that will consume nitrate and reduce it to its constituent components (not the least of which is good old Nitrogen!).  Thusly, my search for linkage for you is as follows (from the handy-dandy search on site using our handy-dandy Google bar!): Googled Marine System Cycle results. This will get you MORE than on your way towards understanding, comprehension, and will greatly reduce your apprehension. So, short answer on the BioSpira is an unequivocal yes, it WILL help. A note as well, I bust not only your chops regarding grammar, but the chops of so many others who continue to disregard our repeated requests, don't read our "FAQs on FAQs", etc. Please don't take it personally, but remember that tomorrow this is going up onto our Daily Q&A page. It is my job to correct and place all queries; correcting all these takes a good deal of time and lots of mouse-clicks. I DO hope this has helped, though there is so much out there on the world wide web with which you could have already helped yourself. Next time, don't wait, seek and ye shall find (answers to most all questions). Marina>> 

Freshwater question re test kits  11/9/05 Hi, I use your website quiet a lot. I am not able to get water test kits at local Fish stores. Therefore I am conducting direct chemical tests. for Ammonia I am using "Nessler's Reagent". However I am not able to find out tests for nitrites & nitrates. <Look to the online outfits here... my fave: Dr.s Foster & Smith (.com). Bob Fenner> 

Cloudy Tank 11/5/05 Hi Chuck, Sorry to bother you again, but I am concerned. We did the water change (50%) and the nitrates are still in the high range on the test strip and now the water is really cloudy. My fiancĂ©© is considering going out tonight and buying a Diatom D-1 filter. What do you think? Will that help our problem? I was not able to find the product you recommended in your previous email, the BioSpira. Again, thank you. You have been a great help. Lori M. <You may have removed all the good bacteria and now have an ammonia spike. The BioSpira will help. Water changes will be much better than a filter and take care of the ammonia and the nitrates.-Chuck> 

FW Test Kits Available 10/25/05 Will do. Although, I've never seen any left over food in that tank!  Is there a test kit that tests for all three at the same time? I've read so much on tank set ups that I think I confused myself. Before I heard from you, I would have just plopped them right on in. Whew! < Your local fish store (LFS) should have individual test kits for all of these chemicals.-Chuck> 

Setting Up New FW Tank With Old Fish - 10/24/05 Thanks Chuck! I have the old gravel (about 1/2 a cup--is that enough?) < The more you have the better quicker the cycling. The amount you suggest will get it going.> The filter and the pump are running. I took some of the old tank water and put it in the new tank--but mostly filtered water (we have a reverse osmosis filter--but I figured the week or so would take care of any chlorine and such anyway...) I'll have the new heater in a few days, and plan to move the "girls" (female cichlids-convict) over in about a week--or is that too soon? < Check the ammonia, nitrites and nitrates. Ammonia, and nitrites should be zero. The nitrates should be under 25 ppm for most cichlids. Feed only enough food so that all of it is gone in a couple of minutes. Siphon out any remaining food.-Chuck> 

"New Tank Syndrome", Guppies, Fatalities.... - 10/19/2005 Hi, <Hello.> I had an absolutely crushing experience yesterday.  I could NOT figure out what happened.   <Uh-oh....> I had put my guppies into a 10 gallon tank with heater and filter.  They weren't crowded up and they were doing fine....for about a week.   <Uh, so the tank was just set up a week ago?> Suddenly yesterday I came home and looked in the tank and realized immediately that something was terribly wrong.  The first thing I noticed was that the water was cloudy.  I had checked the tank every day during the previous week and the water was always clear and the fish were swimming normally about.   <Clarity of the water speaks nothing about the quality of the water....  You absolutely must test for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate....  Especially during this critical cycling time of the aquarium....> They had light during the day via a window and they had darkness at night and evening.  I fed them with the food from the container I'm feeding the other fish which are still alive and healthy, with the possible exception of some old food left at the bottom of the container, but I did not see any of that upon inspection.  I fed them the evening of night before last, I think, or if that wasn't the last time, it was early yesterday before going to work.  They did not attract my attention to anything unusual at that time.  I checked the pH of the water  after I found them dead, and I found it to be pretty close to normal and possibly a little alkaline, which is what livebearers like.   <pH is not the issue here, but the toxicity of ammonia and nitrite present....  this is what's killing them.> The temperature was not too hot or too cold.  When I found them there was one small one still alive so I immediately put her (him?) in my healthy tank in the side container with two molly fry.  I thought I'd saved at least that one and it seemed to be ok.  About an hour or so later I checked it and it was also dead!   <Too badly burned from ammonia or nitrite to recover, I'm sure.> I inspected the dead fish and found a number of them seemed to have big openings at the stomach area.   <Possibly just coincidence, possibly something else pathogenic - but the root cause here is a toxic environment.> Can you shed any possible light on the possible cause of this???? I would be ever so happy to find out because I'm afraid to put anything else in there and I am, to tell the truth, disillusioned about keeping any fish at all now!! <Please read here:   http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwset-up.htm and also in the Set-Up and Maintenance portions of the Freshwater section of the website.> Thanks for your help.  Looking forward to hearing your thoughts if any on the possible cause.  I haven't emptied the tank, thinking that if I need to test the water I'll still have it. <Begin reading, and learning about water quality and how it affects your fish.  You will do fine in time, no worries.> Leslie W. <Wishing you well,  -Sabrina>

Regarding tank cycling 10/16/05 Hello <Howdy> I have noticed something very odd happening in my 55 gallon fish tank. I have put 10 tetra's into the tank to start the cycling process. <Not a good idea...> A week has passed and all the fish are doing fine with the Ammonia levels at 0 the nitrite and nitrate levels at 0 and the ph at 7.6. My question is do you think everything is fine? <Mmm, yes... thus far> Should there not have been a spike in Ammonia due to fish waste? <Mmm, no... not enough ammonia likely there to "start" the cycling process... but may be cycling and no nitrogenous material detectable due to large volume...> Finally I am wondering if it would be alright to add more fish if this trend continues for another week. Thank you in advance for your response. Marcin Goman <I would not add more fish... until accumulating nitrate detected... I would read here: http://wetwebmedia.com/FWSubWebIndex/fwestcycling.htm and the linked files above. Bob Fenner> 

Panda Cory with Milky Film 10/13/05 Hello, <Good morning. Sabrina with you.> This is my first fish tank and your website has been tremendously valuable. I keep making mistakes, though, and lost 4 panda Corys. Just when I think I've figured out what I'm doing wrong, another panda gets sick. <Yikes. Starting out, most folks make mistakes, so do not beat yourself up on this. It is how we are prompted to learn.> I now have two pandas. One seems healthy and active, but the other has milky white clumps on one side of his body. They started about 2 weeks ago and are spreading. I'm attaching two photos...I hope you can open them. I don't know if it's a fungus or bacterial infection. <A tough question. I, personally, think this is Columnaris or some other (severe) bacterial infection. Good photo, BTW.> I've been treating the tank with Maracyn for 8 days now. Initially, there was a small red spot in the white patch that's gone now. The Cory hides but eats actively (sinking wafers and shrimp pellets) and his breathing seems normal. Both seem to tolerate the Maracyn. <I don't think Maracyn (Erythromycin) will treat Columnaris; even if this is something else bacterial, I doubt that Erythromycin is the way to go; it only treats gram-positive bacteria (that's bacteria that have a cell wall); there are few gram-positive bacteria responsible for illness in fish.> <<This is incorrect: The difference between "gram positive" bacteria and "gram negative" bacteria has to do with how they take up (or don't) a type of violet stain (re: peptidoglycan w/in cell walls) .  Try Googling, or view here  Marina>>

My tank and mistakes: -- 7 gal, power filter with venturi tube, sponge filter, heater, light, live plants, driftwood. -- 1 male Betta, 2 panda Corys (at most 4). -- temp 80F, ph 7.0, total ammonia < 0.1ppm (was zero before Maracyn), nitrites 0ppm, nitrates 5ppm, dGH 2, dKH 2. -- 30-40% water change and gravel vac every other day, Amquel, Nutrafin Cycle every other change. Temp change 1-2 degrees after change. <This is too much maintenance, once the tank's cycled.> -- mistakes: --didn't cycle properly and overfed; lost 2 Corys due to high ammonia. --problems keeping temp and pH stable; okay now. --initially fed Betta live tube worms <Tubifex worms, perhaps? Try to avoid these; blackworms are safer (as in, less prone to passing along disease to your fish).> and now some are living in the gravel. I vacuum but can't seem to get rid of them. Maybe the substrate wasn't clean enough. <This is okay. The worms in the substrate aren't of significant concern unless they are very numerous.> --Two other Corys gradually got sick. <Ammonia again? Or this illness?> --one died after one dose of Maroxy; did quick water change and stopped. --another died after one dose of Maracyn II, same. I feel terrible about losing these fish. Is there anything I can do if the Maracyn doesn't work? <I've shown this to Bob, as well.... his recommendation is to treat with aquarium salt and a furan compound.... might read here for more: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/furancpdfaqs.htm .> I don't want to add another chemical or medicine that might do more harm than good. <The Maracyn likely will not be of help here.> I won't add new fish. Through all this, my Betta has been very active, eating heartily, and seemingly oblivious. <I would remove him from this system immediately, lest he contract the illness as well. Normally I would recommend the opposite, removing the infected fish to a separate quarantine/hospital system, but I would be fearful for the Betta right now.> Thanks for your expertise! --Anita <Wishing you the best, -Sabrina>
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